Our Game: Women’s stories shaping sport - Erin Blachford

By Tyler Maher

McPherson Media Group has partnered with Valley Sport to bring you Our Game: Women's Stories Shaping Sport highlighting the brilliant and often under-appreciated, contributions females of the region make to their sporting clubs and organisations, on and off the field.

Each week a different district female athlete, leader or champion will be highlighted — so make sure you contact MMG or Valley Sport to nominate those around you to be profiled in the series.

This week, Echuca's Erin Blachford is featured.

Erin Blachford may still have a few teenage years left to tick off — but she has already packed plenty into her sporting career to date.

The 16-year-old Echuca College student has tried her hand at a myriad of sports — including athletics, swimming, netball, football, softball, cross-country, cricket, soccer and more — but a pair of pursuits stand out above the rest.

Echuca Pistol Club and the Bamawm Extension Pony Club call Blachford their own, and the rising star has certainly made her mark.

“I have been a member at Echuca Pistol Club for just short of three years where I have trained and represented the club at open, state, and national level competitions where I have been on the Victorian state team for two years,” Blachford said.

“I have been at pony club since I was 11, First at Lockington Pony Club and now Bamawm Extension.”

Throughout her time with the pistol club Blachford's skills have improved out of sight — and one milestone is remembered fondly for those who were in attendance to see it.

“Shooting my first 50 — which is consecutive 10s dead centre — in front of a past Olympian and Australian development squad coach who noticed my abilities (is my favourite sporting memory),” Blachford said.

Blachford competes in the junior category of the ISSF Pistol Shooting ranks, tackling fellow A-grade competitors when using an air pistol and B-grade challengers in 25 m sport pistol.

She is ranked fifth in Australia in her air pistol category with a personal best of 545 out of 600 and third in Victoria in the 25 m sport pistol.

“Air pistol is an indoor precision match that is shot from a distance of 10 m from target to athlete where you aim to hit as close to the centre of a target as possible,” Blachford said.

“The firearm used in sport pistol is a .22 calibre weapon and is shot from 25 m from target to athlete.

“Now, unlike the air pistol match, this event has two stages, first the precision stage where you have five shots to shoot as close to the centre as possible in a span of five minutes.

“The next phase is the rapid-fire-dueling stage.

“This is still conducted at 25 m, but rather than the target being stationary, it turns away and faces you for three seconds and in that period you are to fire one shot then hold the firearm at a 45-degree angle to your body for five seconds till the target is again faced and the sequence is repeated.”

Blachford followed in her pop's footsteps in joining Echuca Pistol Club, and feels female participation in all sports — not just her own — can be improved.

“I would love to see more participation in female sports, whether it be individual or team-based,” she said.

“I would also like to see adequate and fair funding to these teams as well as fair coaching and not just have everything driven to the male teams.

“At first I hadn’t seen (gender inequality in shooting) as a major issue because I had only just become a new shooter, but females had fewer shots in a competitive match whereas males had more.

“The reasoning behind this was because “men-boys are stronger”.

“They have now changed the rules so both male and female competitors shoot a 60-shot match in air pistol rather than females only shooting 40.

“There are still changes that need to happen regarding the dress code that women are required to follow at shooting events that are straight-up ridiculous and are not fair in comparison to males.”

Blachford has been keeping her skills honed in isolation thanks to a new training regime, but is looking forward to getting back out there and "being able to chuck around some lead" on the range once more.

“My coach Graeme Harvey has organised a MantisX training competition online for a few of the Victorian juniors and adults to compete in while being stuck at home,” she said.

“A Mantis is a training device that is attached to your desired handgun and can be used without actually having to fire the weapon.

“It reads your hand movements, steadiness and trigger execution to determine the value of a shot as if it was real.

“This was started as soon as restrictions were in place and shooters were not allowed to go to ranges due to social distancing laws.”