Prime Minister Bill English earned the first major victory of election year today when he beat shearing legend Sir David Fagan in a one-sheep-match on the final afternoon of the four-day 40th anniversary World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in ILT Stadium Southland, Invercargill.
The Prime Minister was right at home in his home province and shore one of the fastest long blows of the Championship to date, blasting Sir David away down the last side.
The shearing champion from Te Kuiti, winner of 642 titles worldwide, including five individual World championships, was later gracious in defeat at the hands of the Prime Minister.
"He won it fair and square," said Sir David, who retired from competitive shearing in 2015.
Mr English said: "I did one a couple of years ago at the Southern Fieldays and I reckon it would be 15 years before that, so that's two in the last 15 years."
"I've just got such deep respect for the skill and the work ethic and the athleticism of these shearers," he said. "I always admired it since I was a young guy and actually hearing about (Sir) Dave when he was 18 or 19, so it's just fantastic to have the opportunity to be here, to get up on the board and show respect to what these guys do."
He was high in his praise for the event and its spectacular venue.
"It's brilliant to have it here in Invercargill and great to see the huge public support, the Stadium here is spectacular, just right for this kind of event and the public have got behind it," he said.
"But of course it all comes down to the brilliance of these shearers and the woolhandlers and what they do for the sheep industry in New Zealand and for our export industries, and that's important to me as Prime Minister."
"I've followed the sport and have had some of my family involved as pretty good shearers and one of my sisters has been a physio for World Records, so I've always kept an eye on it and it's such a display of total excellence, with these top shearers."
Mr English is due to be among the 4000 expected for the six individual and team machine shearing, blade shearing and woolhandling finals tonight.
The finals will be live-streamed from 6:45pm tonight at www.worldshearingchamps.com.