Jenkin Newton Thomas
Year Inducted: 2004
Jenkin Newton Thomas is commonly referred to as Newton Thomas. He is legendary as one of Australia's most outstanding clay target shooters and one of the finest duck shooters. His uncanny ability to accurately point the shotgun was nothing short of amazing. Newton's interest in shooting began as a boy when he was raised on the family property at Barham in NSW. He had been a proficient handler of firearms since the age of eight, and was widely acknowledged as a better than average hunter very early. It was during the years of his youth that Newton developed a broad knowledge of native Australian flora and fauna, knowledge that in later years was to make him a valuable adviser to various government conservation agencies.
Newton became totally involved with the improvement of shooters and shooting generally with Australia and with charles Whitia he started off the schools shooting program over twenty years. He organised and participated in numerable instruction days at schools teaching literary to thousands of young shooters. After gaining his matriculation certificate, Newton left school but demonstrated an almost insatiable appetite for learning. He read extensively, and through books and personal observation, developed still further his extensive knowledge of the Australian outback. Because of his bush shooting experiences, Newton became an expert in the use of all types of firearms on the target range. However, it was his love for the shotgun which predominated and he became a formidable opponent, firstly at live pigeons and finally clay target competition.
In the early days of World War II, Newton enlisted in the army and his knowledge of firearms was put to use. After a short stint in Darwin he was transferred to a repatriation hospital in Melbourne with suspected typhoid. Although it turned out to be a false alarm, Newton was transferred to civilian employment with the department of the Army and was given a senior ballistics job in Brisbane. After the war, Newton joined ICI, which was then the only major cartridge manufacturer in Austraila. Newton's position was titled "Field Technical Officer", and provided him with an opportunity to combine business with pleasure, and he became widely recognised as a top authority on all matters relating to shooting.
A number of new products were given tough field tests by the young expert, who also filled a useful public relations role for ICI due to his total honesty and credibility. However, it was probably through his competition shooting activities that Newton was most widely known. He modelled his target shooting style on that of champion pigeon shooter "Calrossie" (John Sutherland), who was also an ICI personality.
After moving to clay target shooting, Newton amassed an enviable record of appearances in Australian Mackintosh trophy teams, winning his way into twenty two teams, in which he achieved the exalted position of team high gun on seven occasions.
Newton's greatest single attribute apart from his integrity, was his ability to concentrate totally on the task at hand. This approach ensured success and these successes were usually at the highest level. As an example, Newton won the following events in Australian Trap and Skeet Championships:
Champion of Champioins -3
Double Barrel - 4
Single Barrel - 3
Double Rise - 1
Skeet - 1
Points score - 1
Followers of the Australian clay busting scene will recognise that this is a complete list of all the Australian natonal titles in the standard disciplines (that is excluding trench and International skeet) and is a feat that has never been repeated. In the mould of a true champion, Newton turned to administrationas his way of putting back tonto the sport a return for the enjoyment he had derived from it as a participant.
In 1974 he was appointed as coach of the Australian shooting team which competed in the world Championships held in Bern, Switzerland. That team was managed by Mr W. R Morgan of Tasmania, who later joined the ACTA National Coaching Council, of which Newton was the Chairman. Then in 1975 Newton was selected to attend an advanced coaching program at one of the world's most renowned firearms training centres, the Fort Benning Advanced Marksmanship Unit, run by the U.S Army. During his visit, he established a lasting friendship with Colonel Bill Pullum and Colonel Parmentier - Bill Pullum is the author of the advanced marksmanship book titled "Three Position Rifle Shooting". The contacts established by Newton during his visit have proved to be most helpful in connection wth arrangements leading to more recent visits to the centre by Australian shooting athletes and coaches.
Since the Switzerland tour, Newton held a number of other offical team positions including manager of the shooting section of Australia's 1978 Commonwealth Games team, which is competed in Edmonton, Canada. However, Newton's biggest contribution to the development of clay target shooting came from his appointment as National Director of Coaching, firstly in an honourary capacity, in September 1977. Then in January 1979, he became the association's first full time Coaching Director, a position which was made possible by a generous financial grant of $60,000 over three years from the Australian government. Newton immediately created and implemented a National Coaching Council, and with the support of its members, proceeded to introduce a novice training scheme. In this project, substantial assistance was obtained from "Bricky" Gunn the Coaching Director of the New Zealand Clay Target Association, and Tibor Gonozol, Coaching Director of the Amateur Pistol Shooting Union of Australia.
At a later stage, Newton enlisted the aid of the Confederation of Australian Sport Coaches Assembly, and worked closely with Mrs Val Beitzel to prepare a clay target proposal for a level one coaches accreditation scheme, which was eventually accepted by the government sponsored Australian Coaching Council. In the last two years of his life, the shooting sport's hero achieved the pinnacles of personal achievement. Firstly in 1980 - Medal of the order of Australia (OAM) recipient for service to the sport of clay target shooting. An award of which Newton was extremely proud as it accentuated his intensive loyalty to Australia. Secondly in 1981 when Newton was coach of an Australian shooting team competing in a top class international competition in Mexico. The team brought home several medals including three gold and one silver.
Courtesy of George Biggs 1987 October CTSN