As the lunch bell rings at Cambridge Middle School, students surge from their classrooms, sprinting towards the cricket pitch in the centre of the playing field.
The long concrete strip has been converted to a runway bordered by blue plastic bench seats, which fill in seconds as ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ pumps from the stereo.
Soon, a wall about five humans deep has formed around both sides of the green turf, which stretches toward the judging table like a red carpet awaiting its celebrities.
Twelve-year-old Ben Tau wasn’t expecting this.
He thought he’d be sitting in a quiet room somewhere with the other seven contestants while judges ran their discerning eyes over his flowing mane of hair.
Instead, he’s been thrust into the limelight, where it’s obvious he’ll need to cook up some sweet moves to win Cambridge Middle School’s first ever Mullet of the Month competition.
Joe Kingston from 24-7 Youth Work organised the event, held last Friday lunchtime, to raise his organisation’s profile and build school spirit.
“Everyone just needs to feel that sense of community because so many people are in lockdown and you’ve had kids coming in and out of isolation all this year,” he said.
“It’s just an awesome way to get everyone back up and just having some fun.”
Contestants had three turns each on the catwalk, where judges Matt Cameron and Luke Gibbs awarded points for hair length and style and general panache.
“I was not expecting that…the excitement of the runway, the prizes, the screaming – it was cool,” said Matt, who owns Barbershop Co Cambridge and sponsored the event.
“I’d love to see it through multiple schools and we’d love to continue to support it.”
Deputy principal Julie Dawick is not a personal fan of the mullet hairstyle – where hair is cut short at the front and sides and left longer at the back – but said the competition was “awesome”.
Ben, who won the contest, said he was nervous before hitting the catwalk but enjoyed his time on the turf and felt like “a popular man” afterwards.
His prize was a Barbershop Co voucher, Oreo cookies, lollies and a new comb.
“I’m so happy that I won,” he said. “I had some tough opponents though, it was close.”
Second place getter Oliver Chapman-Worthy, 12, was planning to laminate and frame his new comb because it was so special.
Third prize went to Felix Clifton.
Joe, whose voice was hoarse after MCing, was delighted with the event’s success.
“I was super happy with the school spirit, everyone was getting into it…it was amazing to see everyone enjoying it and having so much fun,” he said.