There were only two points in it at the Carterton Events Centre on Saturday night (March 10th).
Tony Dowman just edged out runner-up Duncan Brown during the Evening Show at the East Coast Regional Final for The National Bank Young Farmer Contest.
It was so close after the final question buzzer round that even Tony and the other Contestants did not know who had won.
"At the end I looked at Duncan; he asked who won and I said it was him by two points - turns out it was the other way round."
Twenty six year old Tony performed well across the board; taking out three of the Challenges during the practical day at the Clareville A&P Showgrounds. He won the Lincoln University Agri-growth, Silver Fern Farms Agri-sport and the Ravensdown Agri-skills Challenges before going on to claim the East Coast spot in the 2012 Grand Final.
As a Farm Business Manager Tony oversees the financial and physical performance of several farming units which include dairy farms, run off blocks, sheep and beef units along with a cropping farm too. He also sharefarms a 60ha finishing hill block just out of Masterton.
Tony believes that the variety of his day-to-day job helped to give him a bit of an edge but said he had been putting in some extra work too.
"I've also been putting in a fair bit of study and practice and the experience of entering a few times helps too."
Tony has always been keen on the Contest and originally entered in 2003 and 2004 mainly for the challenge it presented. Tony was then forced to take a break from the Contest for several years after he was involved in an on-farm accident that "stuffed my back."
"I'd always aspired to win the Contest and back then the goal was to be the youngest person to ever win."
Now he's got much more to prove: "It's a way of proving that it can be done and there is life after it [the injury]. I was told I probably wouldn't be able to farm again and so far I've proved them wrong."
It will be the Wairarapa Club member's first shot at Grand Final and he's excited about the Challenge. "It's probably still sinking in a bit; but I am definitely looking forward to it."
He's already been working hard to get to this stage but will be stepping it up a notch to prepare for Grand Final in Dunedin in May. "I'll be calling on the Grand Final organising committee form last year and local past Contestants such as Paul McGill for advice."
It won't be the first time Tony has attended a Grand Final however; he was on the Grand Final Committee in Masterton last year and was the Competitions Coordinator for the New Zealand Young Farmers' National Competition Finals.
Tony was also the Vice Chair for the NZYF Wairarapa District in 2011 and is involved in other community services too. He's part of the Gladstone Community Complex Committee and organises stock judging competitions for the Carterton and Masterton A&P Shows.
Over $20,000 worth of prizes were awarded on Saturday night and a further $100,000 will be up for grabs at the Grand Final. The generous prize pool is thanks to The National Bank, Lincoln University, Ravensdown, AGMARDT, Silver Fern Farms, Honda, Swanndri and Echo.
AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg Regional Finals also took place at the Clareville A&P Showgrounds. Masterton Intermediate dominated the AgriKidsNZ final with the MISiles, the MISfits and the MIStletoes taking the top three spots.
Over in the TeenAg Competition Jack Butterick (Wairarapa College) and Sam Kyle (Rathkeale College) were in first place followed by Andrew Baxter and AJ Walker from Wairarapa College. Third place went to Jake Pearce and Ryan Ingham from Kuranui College.
The top three teams from the AgriKidsNZ and TeenAg Competitions will have the chance to attend the Grand Final on May 25th in Dunedin.