Canberra lads off to conquer the world

Landscapers Dougal King, left, and Alexander Halls with their trainer, CIT expert Michael Blasch, centre… off to Abu Dhabi in October.

TWO school bus mates have been reunited in the lead up to Worldskills competition in Abu Dhabi and will soon represent not only Canberra but the nation in landscaping.

Queanbeyan’s Alexander Halls, 22, and Charnwood’s Dougal King, 21, met as 12-year-old schoolboys.

They met again at the regional competitions run by Worldskills Australia, which saw Alex place first and Dougal second. xxxxx

The two then took on the national competition as a team where they became the first Canberra landscapers to receive the top spot.

Dougal, who is in the fourth year of his landscaping apprenticeship, says he and Alex are the luckiest Australian team because they get to compete as friends, whereas most other teams are put with strangers.

Rather than completing one landscape space over four days, this year Worldskills Abu Dhabi contestants will have to landscape four areas using different elements for each one.

Alexander Halls, left, and Dougal King in action.

“We don’t even get the plan now until the day of the competition,” Dougal says.

“They’ve quadrupled the amount of space, so it’s now seven metres by seven metres, each day, for four days.”

Leading up to Worldskills Abu Dhabi 2017 Alex and Dougal will be training for about 25 hours on top of their usual 30 to 40-hour working weeks.

They will continue to train with CIT expert Michael Blasch, who will then accompany them overseas in October.

“We feel like athletes we’re training so much and we barely have a social life,” says Alex.

Alex, who was drawn to landscaping after working with his brother-in-law during his year 11 school holidays, has recently completed his apprenticeship.

He says his favourite part of landscaping is the journey from a “landscape smoothie” to the end result, which will transform a house once it’s all pulled together.

Even though Alex and Dougal have been training hard, Alex says some countries such as China, Korea and some European countries get massive support and contestants will train full time for two years.

And they’ve even been told by a past participant that competitors are treated like celebrities because the event is so big overseas.

Alex and Dougal will compete at WorldSkills Abu Dhabi between October 15-18.

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