Faces of Tamworth: Top shots Clive and George Barton

Sibling rivalry: George (left) and Clive Barton (right) have shared plenty of fond memories over the years.
Sibling rivalry: George (left) and Clive Barton (right) have shared plenty of fond memories over the years.

For much of their careers Clive and George Barton’s biggest advocate was also their biggest adversary.

As two of the top shooters in the country, the brothers often found themselves competing for the opportunity to wear the green and gold.

To the extent that while between them they made the Australian team for virtually every either Commonwealth or Olympic Games from the 1998 Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur through to the 2012 London Olympics, the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games was the only time the two shot together at a major competition.

They not only shot together but went on to win bronze in the men’s skeet pairs.

Clive also won silver in the individual event, George’s effort to make the final making them the first brothers in games history to both reach the final.

George said it was a “natural progression” for them to take up the sport with father Col a member of the local clay target club.

“We used to go as kids. It was a natural progression for us to have a go,” he said.

Six years his senior, Clive started out as a trapper boy.

“I’d sit in the trap house and make some pocket money,” he said.

“After three or four shifts I’d make enough pocket money to actually shoot.”

It was the late Col Burt that really triggered his aspirations beyond just a bit of fun.

Clive recalled how Burt suggested to his father that he let him have a shoot in the state skeet titles which were being held in Tamworth.

He was going to be a trapper boy.

“I had a round of skeet and I shot it alright. Col said ‘why don’t you let him shoot the event, he might win the juniors or something’,” he said.

“I actually went on to win the seniors and juniors, and the overall high gun. A feat that has never been equalled.”

“I think it was just pure luck.”

History would show it wasn’t.

Clive went on to make the Australian junior World Championship team not long after, Burt carting him around to all the trials.

George similarly accelerated pretty quickly, which made for some interesting sibling dynamics.

“It was an odd situation in the early days. You were vying for national and state teams and your biggest competition was in the room next to you,” he said.

That would continue throughout their careers.

George recalled how the pair, after four different qualifying events, finished tied for the second spot on the Australian team for Kuala Lumpur.

“They couldn’t even separate us on a countback and had no provision,” he said.

“They basically said ‘you guys go outside and sort out how you’re going to do it’.”

Clive went on to win the shoot-off they concocted and go to the Games.

It wasn’t always though big brother getting the better of his younger sibling with George edging out Clive for the two Olympics he went to – Athens and Beijing.

He was 17 when he made his first national team to go overseas and recounted that he had to be sent home for the second leg of the trip, which was to Japan.

At that stage you weren’t able to compete in Japan until you were over 18.

It was around then that shooting started to take precedence.

An avid cricketer and hockey player, he had harboured dreams of playing for the Kookaburras or the Australian cricket team, but had come to the realisation they weren’t going to eventuate.

He said it is hard to go past the Olympics as a highlight.

Not just being there but “being competitive at them”.

“And definitely winning the bronze with Clive,” he said.

“More so the fact that mum and dad were able to be there as well. They sacrificed so much.”

For Clive, Sydney stands out in his memory.

“It was special being a home Olympics and it still goes down as the best Olympics ever,” he said.

“The volunteers were unbelievable. That’s the one thing that stuck in my mind.”

He also competed at London and three Commonwealth Games – Delhi, Kuala Lumpur and Melbourne.

Both are still prominent in the local sporting community, although the focus is now hockey and cricket.

Clive plays cricket for Bective-East and had up until this season played hockey for South United.

He also does a bit of coaching.

“My focus is the kids and now grand kids,” he said.

George meanwhile plays vets hockey with Tudor Wests when work allows and padded up for the Goonoo Goonoo Goannas, alongside his dad, in the Peel Valley Bush Cricket competition.

“We opened the batting together,” he said, adding jokingly that Barton the elder ran him out a couple of times trying to take quick singles.