Fourth title makes history in Otago

Troy Calteaux from Otago emerged as the industry’s ultimate digger driver at the CCNZ/CablePrice National Excavator Operator 2024 Competition held at Manfeild Park in Feilding.

Troys’ success follows his national titles in 2018, 2021 and 2022. He says the win felt all the more rewarding because of his nerves of competing for his fourth title in what he knew would be a very close competition.

“This year has been an awesome one, the competitors have been wicked. A mean group,” he says.

“I put myself under that much pressure on the course. Thanks to CablePrice for putting the gear up for us, and all the other sponsors. I’m just blown away.”

Troy, who works with Andrew Haulage in Milton, is the first contestant to win the competition four times, and the first to win three titles in a row. He took the title over Waikato champion Michael Brown of Fulton Hogan, while last year’s runner-up Steven George of Northland took third place.

The competition was founded in 1994 by CCNZ Manawatu Branch as the brainchild of local contractors Graeme Blackley and Grant Smith, and this year’s event marked the 30th anniversary of the excavator-skills clash and featured a serious upgrade to the usual tests of on-the-job skills and crowd-pleasing activities.

In this event edition, competitors amazed fans in new challenges, including scooping ice cream into a cone without damaging it using a newly designed scoop attachment. The ice cream was then served up to delighted young spectators at Central Districts Field Days.

Another never-seen-before challenge was the ‘Connect Challenge’, that required operators to beat opponents by dropping giant game pieces into a jumbo-sized Connect Four-style stand using their excavators. This new task was designed for the 30-year celebration and trialled successfully by Prime Minister Christopher Luxon the day prior to the competition (see photo).

Existing challenges had a new twist for the 30th event, most notably the conversion of the traditional ’Slam Dunk’ to a marble run by the competitors, who had to plan and dig a course of trenches raised above ground for the ball to follow after it exited the concrete tower.

Runner-up Michael Brown of Fulton Hogan put in an impressive showing on the ice cream challenge in his first shot at nationals. A classic ‘dark horse’ competitor, Brown flew under the radar to lead the pack at the end of day one of the two-day competition.

He said he was proud of his achievements on the challenging course.

“It’s a bit different to digging rock. I had a good day out there, and I’m really proud of myself. I did not expect this at all. Thanks to my wife Megan, to the sponsors, all the guys out on the course, to the competitors, they’re a good bunch of bastards. And a real special thank you to my father… for giving me a love of machines.”

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