You’d think, as seasoned auctioneers, Clarence White and Leon Axford would feel comfortable on any soapbox. But when it comes to the Senior Auctioneers Competition (SAC) stage, it’s a bit different.
Recently named as the two finalists in this year’s Awards for Excellence Auctioneering category, both White and Axford competed against their industry peers in what has been touted as the toughest competition yet.
We chatted with the two auctioneers to find out what it’s like to compete in the SAC, why they do it and how to make the most of your mistakes.
REINSW: Clarence, if you win this year, it will be your third win in a row and fourth win in the last five years. Is winning still exciting?
Clarence White: Winning never gets old. I’m competitive by nature. I love competing and I am as hungry today as I was at my first attempt.
REINSW: Leon, this is your third finalist nomination (2015, 2018 and 2019), but you haven’t won yet. The competition was particularly tough this year. How do you feel about your performance?
Lean Axford: Each year I have learned lessons from the mistakes I have made. The beauty of this competition is that perfection is unattainable, which means there is always an area to work on. I focussed on the things I felt I could do better at and can walk away happy with what I have achieved.
REI: Clarence, how do you feel you performed against previous years?
CW: The bidding sequences were more challenging this year, and that is exactly as it should be. The competition is designed to test our skill at the highest possible level – it is effectively training under duress. It says to all competitors: “If you want to win, you need to train, you need to be constantly striving for better and you must be at the top of your game”. It sets a standard and forces you to meet it.
In that way the competition plays a vital role in promoting perpetual improvement across the profession. The organising sub-committee did a great job designing and executing the sequence this year.
In terms of my own performance, there were a couple of hairy moments during the final, so I probably wasn’t as crisp as last year, but I’m delighted to have navigated the sequence successfully to qualify to compete at the Australasian Championships again. It’s always a privilege and an honour to represent NSW at the highest level of competition auctioneering.
REI: What’s it like getting up on stage knowing you’re going to be tested? Obviously, it’s different to a Saturday auction.
LA: When it comes to being tested in this environment, if you put the work in you can lean on your training when the pressure is on. I get nervous before these competitions for two reasons. First, because it means a lot to me. And second, because I hold very high expectations of myself.
In saying that, I felt the most relaxed before this final. The work had been put in, and it was just a case of executing what I know I can do.
CW: Personally, I thrive on the challenge. It excites me. It’s thrilling. I love it. I crave the white-hot furnace of the competition arena the same as I love a good tussle on a Saturday.
REI: Leon, you were a judge at this year’s Novice Auctioneers Competition (NAC) – along with Clarence. Can you empathise with the novice auctioneers?
LA: I hold the NAC competition close to my heart because it’s where I got my break. In 2012, I was fortunate enough to compete in the NAC State Final and landed my first auctioneering opportunity from there.
REI: You’ve both been regular competitors in this competition. Why is it so important to submit yourself for assessment by your peers?
CW: My primary motive for being involved in competition auctioneering is that it pushes me to be constantly innovating and elevating my call. The perpetual strive for better and better is what drives quality in our profession. There’s no end to that. It’s a mindset of perpetual growth.
LA: I love this competition. It makes me work harder to improve.
Having a judging panel of seasoned and exceptional operators from our industry critiquing the intricacies of your auction call simply finds the areas you can improve. The by-product of the competition is that you’re so much better on a weekend when calling, your clients and their clients are the big winners.