Champion woolhandler Joel Henare last night announced what must have been one of the youngest retirements from international sport.
But at the age of just 27 Henare has done his 10 years at the top, or more, and publicly announced after yet another New Zealand win over Australia at the Golden Shears in Masterton that after 14 transtasman test matches it's time to let life take another course.
He was already an experienced winner when he first competed in a transtasman test, at the age of 16 in 2008 and on his first overseas trip, to Hay, NSW.
From Gisborne but based in Central Otago for much of his career, he's since won more than 100 Open woolhandling finals, including many times beating close friends with whom he has formed New Zealand teams, from first-match teammate Keryn Herbert to Sheree Alabaster, the partner in last night's swansong.
The trio have won more than 200 Open woolhandling finals between them, which hasn't left a lot for any others during the seasons of about 20-25 finals a year.
But there have also been close bonds with the opposition, including Australian Melanie Morris, who, with 11 tests under her belt, also starting 2008, is also pondering bowing out of the international scene after this year's World Championships in France.
Alabaster, a Taihape schoolteacher who has had 10 transtasman tests, including six with Henare as the teammate, said it was an honour to be working with the reigning World and Golden Shears in the win over Morris, from Cressy, Tasmania, and Sophi Huff, from Hawkesdale, Vic.
Going to a plan set by the pair earlier in the day, including watching video of previous tests, it avenged a defeat in Perth last September – the only time Henare had been in the losing team in a series in which New Zealand has now won 31 of the 41 tests since the annual home and away transtasman internationals began in 1998.
Looking forward to more time with his children and a possible career in real estate, Henare said last night there had been a lot of pressure to win.
"But it was great," he said. "Everything went how I thought it would, with the amount of energy needed given it was late at night."
Meanwhile, Henare is out of the race to defend his title in France this year after being eliminated from New Zealand team selection contention at the Golden Shears in Masterton today.
Henare, winner of World individual and teams titles in Masterton in 2012 and Invercargill in 2017, was eliminated in a selection series semi-final, finishing last of the eight hopefuls and being left to watch four rivals battle tonight for the two woolhandling places in the Shearing Sports New Zealand team for the championships in Le Dorat, Central France, on July 1-7.
Qualifying for tonight's series final are new Master Woolhandler Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, 2010 World teams title winner Keryn Herbert, of Te Kuiti, Gore woolhandler Chelsea Collier, and 2008 World champion Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape.
Henare, who last night announced he is retiring from transtasman international competition, is, however, still in the running for a 7th consecutive Golden Shears Open woolhandling championship, with the semi-finals and final to be held later today.
The 59th Golden Shears are now in their last day in Masterton's War Memorial Stadium, with a transtasman shearing test tonight and 13 other finals during the day and evening.
Transtasman woolhandling: New Zealand (Joel Henare, Sheree Alabaster) beat Australia (Melanie Morris, Sophie Huf).