FOLLOWING an 18 year hiatus from the show arena, legendary Merino breeder John Williams returned with an emotional performance at this year’s Sydney Royal Easter Show, winning the prestigious Stonehaven Cup for the 11th time.
The triumphant return was nothing short of phenomenal for the 82 year-old principal of Thalabah Merino stud, Laggan, who won the coveted award with a group of March-shorn three rams and two ewes exhibited by the Williams’ family.
The history making win continues his outstanding success competing for the iconic cup, which Mr Williams last won in 1995.
He has earned the second highest number of wins of the Stonehaven Cup, winning 10 cups in 23 years from 1972 until 1995, with his Koonwarra stud which was sold in 1998.
Mr Williams has been showing sheep since he was 14 years-old with his father Jim Williams, and compared the thrill of winning this year’s Stonehaven cup to the first time he won the prestigious title.
“I had tears in my eyes then, but I had bigger tears in my eyes this time,” he said.
Thalabah’s team consisted of five fine-medium wool four and two-tooth sheep that averaged 19.5-micron fleece, and were unanimously selected for first place by the seven judges.
His break from the show arena started when Mr Williams sold Koonwarra in 1998.
Stud buyer Charles Curran, Canowindra, had the pick of the stud ewes and commercial ewes which saw 50 years of breeding leave the Thalaba property at the time.
Numbers have since been built up from the 95 stud ewes which remained following the sale to 500, with a commercial flock of 5500 breeding ewes and wethers.
Stud and commercial ewes are joined in March/April for September lambing.
While new bloodlines have been introduced into the breeding program, the type has remained the same.
Despite being an industry pioneer of artificial insemination of Merino sheep, and a major business element of the Koonwarra stud, the Thalabah breeding flock is only natural mated.
Returning to the show arena could be a sign of things to come, with three generations of the Williams family interested in Thalabah’s future.
The Thalaba property is managed by Mr Williams and his son Jim, who is also a talented classer, aided closely by long time employee Brad Cartwright and strong support from son-in-law Anthony Frost.
Whether he will return to defend his title in 2017, Mr Williams said, "we are going year by year”.
"That is what I have done all of my life,” he said.
"While I am still able to I'll soldier on regardless."