Pongaroa farmer David Buick reckoned he was not fit and ready, but it didn't seem to matter when he won the Great Raihania Shears Open shearing final at the Hawke's Bay Show in Hastings on Friday.
With former world champions John Kirkpatrick and Rowland Smith each eliminated in the semifinals, Buick was in complete control on the ringer's stand at the left-hand end of the board. He won the four-man showdown by 4.4pts from Invercargill shearer Leon Samuels, who just pipped fellow Southlander Brett Roberts, of Mataura, in the battle for second place.
The absence of Kirkpatrick and Smith meant the showdown was without a Hawke's Bay face in the 17 finals since the Hawke's Bay A and P shearing was resurrected in 2004 as the Great Raihania Shears, named in honour of Rimitiriu "The Great" Raihania, who in 1902 at the Hawke's Bay show won what is thought to have been the first machine-shearing competition in the world.
On Friday Buick blitzed through his pen in 17min 7sec of the first 20-sheep final of the new season, close to a sheep ahead of second-man-off Samuels. He also had the best points in judging both on the shearing board and in the pens to complete the rout in his first competition shear of the season.
He was also the fourth winner in the four finals in the opening three weeks of the season, following North Canterbury-based Southland shearer Troy Pyper's win in the national Winter Comb final at Waimate, Hawke's Bay shearer Kirkpatrick's win in the New Zealand Spring Shears final, also at Waimate, and Northland shearer Toa Henderson's win at the Poverty Bay A and P Show in Gisborne.
It was the first Great Raihania Open win for Buick, a New Zealand representative who has won more than 20 finals in the North and South islands and Australia since his first victory in the top grade in 2011.
Occasional competitor Cayzer Wedd, from Napier, back in Hawke's Bay to work but based in Oamaru, provided the only semblance of a Hawke's Bay win on the day by taking Senior honours by 2.65pts from runner-up Ruka Braddick, of Eketahuna. Masterton shearer Adam Gordon extended his unbeaten record after three shows in the Intermediate grade, and Finn McKenzie, from Tolaga Bay, won the Junior final, backing-up after a debut win in Gisborne six days earlier.
A special feature was the 16 entries in the Novice grade, on the back of a record 21 entries in the show's eighth annual schools event the previous day. The Novice grade was won by Shaun Kohinga, from Te Kuiti.
Two-times world champion Joel Henare, from Gisborne, completed the double of the North Island's opening two Open woolhandling titles for a fifth time, having also won at the Poverty Bay A and P Show six days earlier. He had previously won both titles in 2012, 2013, 2014, and 2016.
With 2019 world teams title winner Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, placed second, Chelsea Collier, of Gore, third and Napier's Angela Stevens, fourth, it meant, again uniquely, that neither the shearing nor the woolhandling Open finals on Friday had any of those who had been in the Great Raihania Shears finals last year.
Reigning Golden Shears Junior woolhandling champion Te Anna Phillips had her first Senior win, among those beaten being Napier-based Jasmin Tipoki, who failed to reach the final, after having her first Senior win at Gisborne the previous weekend.
She was however recognised as the No 1-ranked Senior last year, despite not winning any of her individual events. Her framed certificate was presented by Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman and shearing legend Sir David Fagan who says Tipoki's win showed the rankings process achieves an aim of encouraging competitors to take-in more shows so that recognition goes not only to the victors but also others competing in as many shows as they can during the season.
Tira Ngarangione, of Gisborne, won the Junior woolhandling final, added to a home show win in Gisborne.
A feature of the Great Raihania Shears was the unveiling of a plaque to denote Koro's Corner, the commentary position of former regular pavilion commentator Koro Mullins, who died in September last year.
With the Wairarapa and Manawatu shows cancelled because of the uncertainty of the Covid-19 crisis, there are no further shearing sports competitions in the North Island until the Central Hawke's Bay A and P Show in Waipukurau on November 14.