Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith is setting his sights on becoming a world champion after successfully defending the Golden Shears Open shearing title in Masterton on Saturday night.
The 27-year-old, the TAB favourite who grew up in Northland, was a man possessed as he hammered the opposition in the six-man final and beat runner-up, second-favourite and four-times winner John Kirkpatrick of Napier by more than two-and-a-half points.
The 2010 Golden Shears and world champion Cam Ferguson of Waipawa was third, creating the event's third Hawke's Bay trifecta in a row, and meaning that no one from outside Hawke's Bay had been in the first two since the last win by King Country icon David Fagan in 2009.
Smith's win gave him the first of two New Zealand machine shearing positions at the 16th world championships, to be held in Gorey, Ireland, in May, the second being decided in Te Kuiti on March 29 when Smith will be also defending the New Zealand championships Open title. He had previously twice just missed out on selection.
The 2-metre giant Smith set a bold pace in front of a crowd of over 1000 equally on to the pace from the start, with big support for sole first-time finalist and Pongaroa farmer David Buick, potentially the host region's first winner of the event in its 54-year history.
Smith disrobed the first of his 20 ewes in 43 seconds but Kirkpatrick hit the front over the last five, finishing in 17min 0.139sec, with Smith next 11 seconds later, ahead of the fast finishing Ferguson and 2006 winner Dion King of Hastings, and then Buick.
The first five were separated by just 32 seconds, with another half-minute to the last-man off, Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford, whose perseverance at the top level was rewarded with the biggest win of his career in the PGG Wrightson National Circuit final, shorn earlier in the night.
Another big winner was 22-year-old Joel Henare of Gisborne, who successfully defended the Golden Shears Open woolhandling title, and won a world championships New Zealand team selection trial final, enabling him to go to Ireland in May to defend the world title he won in 2012.
Second and also headed to Ireland was 2008 Golden Shears Open woolhandling and Kimbolton farmer Ronnie Goss, mother of New Zealand women's sevens rugby captain Sarah Goss, who already has a world title to her name as a footballer.