Crae Kilby's archery success was fostered by a state-first initiative at Wolumla Public School

In 1997, when Ian Gordon told his fellow principals archery was being introduced to Wolumla Public School, he was met with disbelief. 

“The other principals actually got a giggle out of the whole idea,” he said. 

His decision was inspired by the enthusiasm Year 6 pupil Crae Kilby showed for the sport.

Twenty years on, Mr Kilby is now the NSW champion for target shooting.

“As a kid I'd be making my own bows out of willow and heavy duty fishing line. I made some arrows out of bamboo too,” Mr Kilby said this week.

At just 12 years old, Mr Kilby questioned his principal why he couldn't play his favourite sport at school.

“Ian agreed there was probably no good reason we couldn't bring it in," Mr Kilby said. 

Mr Gordon asked his eager pupil to flick through some sports catalogues and select the equipment needed for the project. The school secured $400 funding from the Department of Schools to put their plan into action. 

It made Wolumla Public School the first in NSW to bring archery into the school curriculum.

“I received an award at the time to celebrate it,” Mr Kilby said. “Archery was already at school camps, but as far as program within a school, it was first.”

Mr Gordon said the sport reinvigorated his pupils’ enthusiasm for physical education. 

“It used to be hard to motivate the kids,” he said. 

“But archery was brilliant, it was just this unusual, dynamic activity that the kids got really excited about.”

Some pupils were better than others, and Mr Gordon had to make a few exceptions for one in particular. 

“While the others shot at the regular targets, I set up cans further off in the distance for Crae to use,” he said.

“He'd almost always put an arrow straight through them.”

While Mr Kilby showed early promise for a professional archery career, an accident brought his progress to a halt. 

“I dislocated my shoulder one day, and didn't let it heal properly before going back to work,” he said. 

“About three weeks later it dislocated again, and then again. Eventually it became so weak it would drop out in my sleep so I had to get a total shoulder reconstruction.”

Between recovering from his surgery and taking up a busy job at a quarry in Canberra, Mr Kilby lost time for his archery.

“When I finally did pick up a bow again, it wasn't to shoot competitively,” he said. 

“But with archery, you're always competing against yourself. If you're beating your own score that means you're getting better.”

Eventually Mr Kilby built himself up to competition level. He has kept a firm hold on the ACT target champion title since 2013 in the men's open compound division.

Last year he claimed the NSW target championship, and is working toward the 2017 competitions.

He said his best experience was representing Australia in the World Cup 3 in Turkey last year.

“It was amazing, just to be on the world stage with the world's best.”

He believes archery is a beneficial sport for all kids.

“It teaches you to be focused, to switch off from distractions,” he said. 

“It's also accessible to everyone, and that's really important for some kids who feel like they're not good at sport or excluded because they might not be as fit.

“Archery in schools shows them that there are still sports they can do and socialise through.”

Mr Gordon said he couldn't be happier the decision to introduce archery at his primary school resulted in such a success.

“We could have never guessed that decision would lead us here,” he said.

“It was about taking a risk, Crae took that risk and challenged us to do things a little bit differently.”

A risk that has hit the mark for Crae Kilby and his archery career.