The high cold country around Bigga breeds special characteristics into its hardy denizens, among them super soft merino wool and resilient, dedicated wool growers. And, quite a crop of talented Rugby League players too. One of the district’s greats, superfine woolgrower Trevor Picker, is being mourned by his neighbours and the wider community after his sudden death in a multi-car accident on Friday afternoon.
The Pickers of Bigga, and the wool produced on their superfine Merino stud, Hillcreston, are a multigenerational fine wool success story: the stud was founded in 1925 after the family came to the district in the 1870’s, and the history continues with Mr Picker’s sons Danny, Murray, Grant and Brett.
Hillcreston’s fame was at its peak when Goulburn was a major wool selling centre, and the Picker family’s wool set national and international price records. In 1964, Mr Picker set a world record of 1800 pence for a pound of superfine merino wool, a price not bested for almost a decade. The bale was flown to England after its sale, bound for the finest Savile Row tailors.
The industry focus would shift to Italian and Japanese buyers, but at the time furious international auctions were being held in the Lilac Time Hall in the Goulburn S&C Club. The price records kept coming for the Picker clip: in 1985, Hillcreston’s 15.5 micron clip sold for 17,000 cents per kilo and in the next year, another Hillcreston bale sold for $28,500.
Mr Picker was renowned for his straightforward approach to both life and woolgrowing: in a stud world where airs and graces sometimes prevailed over quality, his focus was wholly on how good the wool could be and he classed all his own wool, depending on deep experience to sort the fleeces by hand and eye. The family were also among the first to introduce rugs for the highest quality sheep to keep dust out of the fleeces.
But Mr Picker was also part of another quintessentially Australian dynasty. He and his father Sam had both played Rugby League for Bigga in their youth and four of his grandsons, Joe, Michael, Ben and David have played for the Canberra Raiders in various grades.
Michael and Ben both played under-20s grand finals with the Raiders, including a 2008 premiership and Joe has been a bona fide Raiders legend, playing 110 NRL games with the Raiders before moving to South Sydney. A devoted homebody, Joe had considered simply staying home to play local football and go shearing before the Rabbitohs offer provided a bookend to his career. His grandfather was immensely proud of him, despite being a lifelong Manly fan himself.
Mr Picker is survived by his four sons, their spouses, 14 grandchildren and 28 great-grandchildren – a woolgrowing, football playing, deeply Australian dynasty.