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Bill Shorten "Was Very Skilled With The Blade", Says Former Fencing Mentor

"One of the things fencing gives you is a great sense of timing ... "

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During a radio interview this week Bill Shorten let slip that he used to be a fencer at school, which is strange because a) how many people do you know who have fenced? And b) Shorten has been involved in the knifing of not one but two sitting Labor prime ministers.

A quick search uncovered that young Bill Shorten was so good at fencing that he once won the under 15 Victorian state title in the sabre division.

Handout / Getty Images

The sabre is one of the three "competitive scenes" in fencing, where unlike the epee and foil disciplines, the weapon can be used to score points with the sides of the sword, meaning there's a lot of more slicing than stabbing.

Bill Shorten fenced at the VRI club in Richmond, Melbourne. BuzzFeed News spoke to a former "fencing master" at the club named David Mok who said young Bill Shorten was a "kid from the west" who was "very skilled with the blade in hand".

So while most young boys were playing footy or cricket, according to Mok, Shorten was "perfecting the art of dueling swords".

Another former president of the VRI club Terry Cuddy lavished praise on Shorten.

"He gave a hilarious speech back in 2009 at our anniversary dinner, comparing each of the federal politicians to fencers and fencing styles. Like Tony Abbott who was all out attack, stuff like that," said Cuddy.

He said Shorten's stint at the VRI club coincided with a "golden age" of producing Olympic fencers, but he wouldn't be drawn on whether Shorten had the skills to have been an Olympics swordsman.


"It equates to ballet, all of those sorts of things. You’ve got to think about what you’re doing and how you do it."

When asked whether Shorten learned how to "go in for the kill" from fencing, Cuddy laughed and said, "oh absolutely! Absolutely!"

BuzzFeed News asked Cubby whether there was a photo of Shorten as a young fencer and he said "no", but suggested: "surely you could just photoshop him into one". OK ... well here it is.

Mark Di Stefano is a media and politics reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.

Contact Mark Di Stefano at

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