Former World and Golden Shears champion Cam Ferguson gave possibly the strongest sign of being back in the race for another title when he won the Hilux Rural Games New Zealand Speedshear Championship in Palmerston North at the weekend.
While speedshear shearing for fastest time over one or two sheep is a big step away from winning a 20-sheep show title, the 35-year-old Ferguson showed characteristic tenacity and grit to post fastest single-sheep time in three of the four preliminary rounds as the invited field was cut from 10 to two for the final.
Up against Southland shearer Brett Roberts in the final, Waipawa shearer Ferguson shore two sheep in 42.82 sec to become the fifth shearer to win in the five years of the games title.
It's been a season of at least six speedshear wins for Ferguson who took a couple of years off serious competition shearing to go solo-dadding, and at the end of this month now targets the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti and second of the two national team machine shearing places at this year's World shearing and woolhandling championships in France.
"It's the No 1 priority," said Ferguson who has had more than 40 wins in the traditional and longer form competition of Golden Shears and other show finals. But the winner of the 2010 Golden Shears Open and World tites has not had a show win in just over two years, since the Mayfield A and P Show in Canterbury in March 2017.
He said he thought he could have "done it" in the Golden Shears in Masterton on March 2, but a single mistake saw him eliminated in the semifinal of the big championship, which was won by near-unbeatable fellow Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith.
He did at Masterton still go within a whisker of the 15-sheep national circuit title, won by speedshear regular Paerata Abraham, of Masterton, who was eliminated in the second round of today's competition.
Among the vanquished was Smith, a former winner but rare speedshears competitor who was eliminated in the third round as the field was trimmed from six to a semifinal four.
Ferguson shore 18.78sec in the first round, two seconds clear of next-best and defending champion Jimmy Samuels, of Marton and who was the only one of the 10 who has not won an Open-class show final.
Eliminated at that stage were Southland shearers Ringakaha Paewai and Casey Bailey, who had both flown from Christchurch to Palmerston North after competing the previous day at the Mayfield A and P Show in Canterbury, where Bailey had his first Open-class show in New Zealand.
Veteran Te Kuiti shearer Digger Balme posted the fastest second round time of 18.68sec, and Ferguson lowered the day's quickest time to 18.16sec at the next stage and the day's best of 17.92sec in the semi-final.
Senior shearer Laura Bradley, of Woodville, shore two sheep in 1min 8.12sec, for a 2.14sec win over Smith's wife, former Intermediate competitions winner and World women's record holder Ingrid (nee Baynes) in the games' first women's speedshear match.
Results from shearing sports competitions throughout New Zealand during the weekend:
Results from the Hilux Rural Games New Zealand Speedshear Championships at Palmerston North on Sunday, March 10, 2019:
Final (2 lambs): Cam Ferguson (Waipawa) 42.82scc, 1; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 56.26pts, 2. Other placings: Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 3; Jimmy Samuels (Marton) 4; Rowland Smith (Marekakaho) 5; Digger Balme (Te Kuiti) 6; Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 7; Ringakaha Paewai (Gore) 8; Leon Samuels (Ohai) 9; Casey Bailey (Riverton) 10.
Kumeu Shears on Saturday, March 9, 2019:
Open final (18 sheep): Aaron Haynes (Feilding) 14min 30.34sec, 51.628pts, 1; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti) 14min 56.71sec, 52.836pts, 2; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 15min 24.06sec, 53.647pts, 3; Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Whangamomona) 14min 51.88sec, 54.261pts, 4; Sam Welch (Waikaretu) 15min 25.82sec, 56.068pts, 5; Darren Alexander (Whangamomona/Havelock North) 17min 35.83sec, 59.681pts, 6.
Senior final (8 sheep): Ricci Stevens (Napier) 10min 2.03sec, 37.352pts, 1; Jayden Mainland (Wellsford) 10min 0.93sec, 39.422pts, 2; Daniel Berger (Ahuroa) 10min 25.27sec, 41.014pts, 3; Josef Winders (Winton/Hamilton) 10min 23.62sec, 41.556pts, 4; James Lowry (Onewhero) 10min 23.45sec, 41.673pts, 5; Wayne Newlove (Dargaville) 13min 0.98sec, 54.799pts, 6.
Intermediate final (6 sheep): Cory Barrowcliffe (Piopio) 10min 13.79sec, 40.023pts, 1; Alan Boler (Wellsford) 10min 15.55sec, 40.945pts, 2; Rex Finlayson (Kai Iwi Lakes) 10min 40.92sec, 50.212pts, 3; Robin Trent (Te Akau) 11min 21.24sec, 55.229pts, 4; Heath Barnsdall (Piopio) 65.731pts, 5.
Novice final (2 sheep): Gus Berger (Ahuroa) 9min 42.48sec, 38.124pts, 1; Keahrey Manson (Piopio) 8min 38.55sec, 44.428pts, 2; William Titford (Waiwera) 8min 4.44sec, 46.222pts, 3; Tana Barrowcliffe (Piopio) 11min 22.39sec, 56.12pts, 4; Tessa Berger (Ahuroa) 15min 13.24sec, 82.662pts, 5; Stacy Beattie (Dargaville) 16min 40.57sec, 123.529pts, 6.
Veterans (2 sheep): Jeff Wood (Ruawai) 3min 32.83sec, 19.642pts, 1; Kevin Boyd (Dargaville) 3min 37.17sec, 20.859pts, 2; Gary Rix (Dargaville) 4min 8.37sec, 23.919pts, 3; Michael Hegglin (Aria) 4min 8.37sec, 24.919pts, 4; Barry Jones (Pukekohe) 3min 39.42sec, 27.471pts, 5; Neil Sidwell (Kaukapakapa) 3min 57.55sec, 27.878pts, 6.
ANZ Northland Teams Championship (15 sheep): Warkworth (Phil Wedd, Daniel Berger, Alan Boler, Kevin Welch) 18min 37.67sec, 68.084pts, 1; Kaikohe 18min 39.54sec, 70.243pts, 2; Arapohue 19min 40.12sec, 72.273pts, 3; Paparoa 20min 33.67sec, 78.751pts, 4.
Results from the Cheviot A and P Show Shears on Saturday, March 9, 2019:
Open final (12 sheep): Angus Moore (Ward) 13min 2.49sec, 45.7078pts, 1; Tegwyn Bradley (Woodville) 12min 26.83sec, 46.0081pts, 2; Travers Baigent (Wakefield) 12min 30.61sec, 48.0305pts, 3.
Senior final (8 sheep): Phil Fitz 12min 58.89sec, 52.9445pts, 1; Hannah Knox (Cheviot) 13min 44.02sec, 55.701pts, 2; Sam Thompson (Waipara) 13min 51.49sec, 58.8245pts, 3.
Intermediate final (5 sheep): Brayden Clifford (Gore) 9min 23.5e4sec, 33.377pts, 1; Matt Hunt (Waikaka) 8min 13.8sec, 35.09pts, 2; Ed Harrington (Akaroa) 9min 9.46sec, 38.073pts, 3.
Junior final (2 sheep): Ben Forrester (Leithfield) 4min 26.52sec, 26.83pts, 1; Hendrix Taylor (Cheviot) 6min 8sec, 89.4pts, 2.
Open final: Kelly Macdonald (Wanaka) 22.55pts, 1; Maringi Maru (Cheviot) 42.52pt, 2.
Senior final: Rochelle Price (-) 60.55pts, 1; Jonnette Fryer (Hastings) 68.43pts, 2.
Junior final: Shannon Denton (-) 29.892pts, 1; Paige Paulman (Christchurch) 48.866pts, 2.
Results from the Mayfield A and P Show Shears at Mayfield on Saturday, March 9, 2019:
Open final (20 sheep): Casey Bailey (Riverton) 17min 42.9sec, 57.3pts, 1; Leon Samuels (Invercargill) 17min 51.84sec, 57.49pts, 2; Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 18min 10.5sec, 59.73pts, 3; Troy Pyper (Invercargill) 18min 30.12sec, 61.66pts, 4.
Senior final (8 sheep): Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 9min 10sec, 31.38pts, 1; Alex Smith (Rakaia) 9min 19sec, 32.45pts, 2; Luis Pincol (Chile/Waimate) 9min 11sec, 33.93pts, 3; Mitchell Murray (Amberley) 10min 21sec, 38.18pts, 4.
Intermediate final (6 sheep): John Cherrington (Scotland) 10min 28.25sec, 34.75pts, 1; Mitchell Menzies (Ranfurly)10min 28.32sec, 35.25pts, 2; Jonathan Painter (Pahiatua) 10min 6.31sec, 36.32pts, 3; Adam Hodges (Geraldine) 11min 45.6sec, 43.95pts, 4.
Junior final (4 sheep): Henry Mayo (England) 9min 43sec, 32.4pts, 1; Kelly Poehls (Makara) 11min 13sec, 38.15pts, 2; Dan Owen (Wales) 9min 45sec, 43.25pts, 3; Jack Gordon (Napier/Heriot) 12min 49sec, 50.2pts, 4.
Results from the Sefton Shears on Sunday, March 10, 2019:
Open final (12 sheep): Troy Pyper (Invercargill) 12min 23sec, 43.9pts, 1; Angus Moore (Ward) 12min 344sec, 46.62pts, 2; Hugh De Lacy (Rangiora) 13min 35sec, 50.5pts, 3.
Senior final (7 sheep): Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 9min 1sec, 33.76pts, 1; Luis Pincol (Chile/Waimate) 10min 41sec, 41.76pts, 2; Alex Smith (Rakaia) 9min 48sec, 42.26pts, 3.
Indermediate final (5 sheep): Brayden Clifford (Gore) 9min 8sec, 31.4pts, 1; John Cherrington (Scotland) 8min 47sec, 33.15pts, 2; Jonathan Painter (Pahiatua) 9min 52sec, 36.8pts, 3.
Junior final (3 sheep): Henry Mayo (England) 7min 24sec, 26.53pts, 1; Ben Forrester (Leithfield) 7min 50sec, 35.5pts, 2; Kelly Poehls (Makara) 8min 50sec, 36.17pts, 3.
Blades final (2 sheep): Isaac Duckmanton (Christchurch) 7min 24sec, 38.7pts, 1; Lyall Windleburn (Rangiora) 8min 22sec, 59.1pts, 2; Shaun Burgess (Rakaia) 9min 3sec, 64.65pts, 3.