The chance to represent New Zealand in a world championships is more than a dream-come-true for Alexandra woolhandler Pagan Karauria.
The 30-year-old daughter of year 2000 world woolhandling teams champion Tina Rimene and former world record-breaking shearer and former national shearing circuit champion Dion Morrell once lay in a hospital bed wondering if, with a serious back injury from a fatal work van crash, she would ever compete again.
But with a fight born of a tragedy and the disappointment of just missing New Zealand team selection for the 2017 world championships in Invercargill, Karauria became a crowd favourite as she won a selection series final at the Golden Shears in Masterton on Saturday night.
Read more: Full Golden Shears results
With runner-up and 2008 World champion Sheree Alabaster she books a ticket to the world championships in Le Dorat, Central France on July 1-7.
Among the first to congratulate her was reigning champion and long-time friend Joel Henare, of Gisborne, whose hopes of a defence ended when he was eliminated in the series' semi-final on Saturday morning.
Karauria, who has won 20 Open finals around the country, but not yet a Golden Shears or New Zealand championships Open, had to overcome the ongoing pain and discomfort which are among the lasting effects of the September 2008 tragedy, which one specialist once reckoned she may not have survived had she not established the strength of back that goes with also being a shearer.
Acclaimed a Master Woolhandler by Shearing Sports New Zealand last August, that shearing also made her one of five female shearers starring in the docu-movie She Shears, launched last year, shown in theatres throughout the country and now being credited with prompting the resurgence which noted at Golden Shears, with increased entries amid what had been the ongoing decline of sheep numbers and strongwool prices.
Her win on Saturday night possibly overshadowed the triumphs of Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith and Henare who successfully defended the Golden Shears Open shearing and woolhandling titles respectively.
The 32-year-old Smith claimed his 6th Golden Shears Open, equalling the tally of Brian "Snow" Quinn who travelled from Alexandra to win six times between 1965 and 1972, but is still well short of the likely never-to-be-equalled 16 wins of King Country legend Sir David Fagan.
He won by more than two points from near-evergreen finalist Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, and was first to finish, shearing the sheep in 17min 24.923sec. The only first-time Golden Shears Open finalist, Te Kuiti's Mark Grainger, was, however, credited with fastest time based on a judges' calculation after his machine stopped for a short time early in the contest.
Smith also wins a place at this year's world championships, aiming to regain the title after also just missing a place in the team for 2017. Reigning World champion John Kirkpatrick was 6th on Saturday night and joins the throng chasing the second machine shearing berth at the New Zealand championships in Te Kuiti on March 28-30.
Henare was in complete control of the Open woolhandling final, after saying earlier that while disappointed with missing out on the chance to go to a 4th World championships he was "relieved" the pressure was off. It gave him a record 7th Golden Shears Open title, all in a row, as he bowed out of top competition at the age of 27 to devote more time to his children.
The Australian shearing team of Jason Wingfield, Daniel McIntyre and new-chum Callum O'Brien scored their country's 6th win in the last 10 transtasman tests in New Zealand, despite the absence of South Australian guru Shannon Warnest for the first time since 2004, and the strength of the New Zealand team of Smith, Stratford and Kirkpatrick..
Masterton shearer Paerata Abraham, best known as a Speedshears winner and the 15min 50time he shore in his first Golden Shears Open final three years ago, won a place in next year's transtasman series by winning the PGG Wrightson Wool National Circuit final, coming from 11th of qualifiers from the preliminary rounds and 4th in the semi-final.
Lower grade winners were notable for the number turning their craft into more of a sport than a career.
Winners of the seven Golden Shears shearing or woolhandling champions outside of the glamour Open class, include just two working fulltime at their winning craft in the shearing industry.
They are Senior shearing champion Connor Puha, 20, of Kimbolton, who was Intermediate champion in 2017, and surprise Senior woolhandling champion Jeremy Goodger, 38, of Masterton, whose forte has really been in woolpressing, in which he has won 13 Golden Shears Men's titles.
Of the others, Intermediate shearing champion Mark Ferguson, who won the Junior title two years ago, is a 45-year-old farmer at Elsthorpe in Hawke's Bay, new Junior champion Brodie Horrell, 21, from Gore, is a shepherd working near Heriot, and Junior woolhandling champion Sunnii Te Whare, 25, from Ohai in Southland, works at a meat plant in Christchurch.
Novice shearing and woolhandling finals winner Adam Gordon, 18, of Masterton, has just started working fulltime in the woolsheds, mainly as a presser.