Excitement builds for shearing season

By Doug Laing

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Hawke's Bay's most successful shearer, Napier gun John Kirkpatrick, winning the Centennial Central Hawke's Bay Show's open final two years ago. Photo / File
Hawke's Bay's most successful shearer, Napier gun John Kirkpatrick, winning the Centennial Central Hawke's Bay Show's open final two years ago. Photo / File

They shear sheep all year round, these days.

So how are the guys going?

The simple answer is, they've all been out working, somewhere, which could mean anywhere from here, to Australia, to North America, to the UK, and Europe ... wherever the work takes them.

But in two weeks, the New Zealand competition season kicks off, and over the next seven months, hundreds of shearers, woolhandlers and a few woolpressers will take part in competitions throughout the country.

The Shearing Sports New Zealand calendar comprises competitions at 60 venues, starting with the New Zealand Merino Shearing and Woolhandling Championships at Alexandra in Central Otago on October 4-5, and ending with the MacKenzie Shears at Fairlie, the gateway to the MacKenzie Country in Canterbury.

Some, such as the Golden Shears in Masterton, the New Zealand Championships in Te Kuiti, the Otago championships in Balclutha, and the Southern Shears in Gore, are stand-alone events, some held in town halls or sports stadiums converted into woolsheds for the day.

Many are held at A&P shows, maintaining years of tradition, such as the Great Raihania Shears to be held on the last day of the 150th anniversary Hawke's Bay Show, on October 25, and the even more historic Canterbury A&P Show, where the coarse-wooled New Zealand Corriedale Championships are on November 14-15.

The glamour events at each competition are usually the Open shearing finals, trademarked by such events as the Golden Shears and NZ Championships where the top six qualifiers from heats, quarter-finals and semifinals each shear 20 crossbred sheep, in well under a minute a sheep.

Many other events strive to run 20-sheep finals but some are inhibited by the availability of sheep as sheep numbers decrease across the country.

Shearers generally compete in four classes - open, senior, intermediate and junior, as determined by the numbers of wins as they graduate through each class, or by the traditional method of tallies recorded during the working day. Some shows also have novice events, and a few have veteran events.

Open woolhandling finals also feature in many of the shows with senior and junior woolhandling classes, while in the South Island blade shearing will be held at eight shows.

The season also features international events - transtasman shearing and woolhandling tests will be held at Warrnambool, Victoria, on October 26, and at the Golden Shears which end on March 1.

A small number of other competitions have exchanges with Australian contests, and there are inter-island events at the Southern Shears on February 14-15, and at Te Kuiti at the end of March.

There is also a range of circuits, where competitors accumulate points to qualify for finals, the major series being the PGG Wrightson National, which culminates at the Golden Shears, and the NZ Shears Circuit, which culminates at Te Kuiti.

The Open shearing champions at the Golden Shears and the NZ Championships will represent New Zealand at the World Championships in Ireland in May, as well as the top two woolhandlers from a circuit run throughout the season.

The first show of the season in the North Island is the Poverty Bay Show on October 19, and Hawke's Bay features strongly with shearing events at the Hawke's Bay, Central Hawke's Bay, Wairoa and Dannevirke shows.

- Hawkes Bay Today

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