Taranaki shearer Gavin Mutch's two decades have never challenged his allegiance to native Scotland, but he was still able to realise another dream by winning in Australia on Saturday, in a team from New Zealand.
In a career which landed the world title in 2012 and acclaim in 2015 as the only shearer from overseas to win the Golden Shears Open title in Masterton, the 39-year-old Whangamomona farmer helped the New Zealand Shears Te Kuiti team to a comfortable win in an unofficial transtasman match against Romney Shears Warrnambool and blitz all-comers to win the Romney Shears Open, Australia's top crossbred event and held at the Warrnambool Show, about 250km west of Melbourne.
While not eligible to represent an official New Zealand team, Mutch won his place in the NZ Shears TK team by claiming third place in the New Zealand Championships Open final in Te Kuiti in April.
At an age where contemporary top competition outcomes suggest he may just be hitting his peak, it ticked another box for Mutch, making Australia the 10th country in which he has won Open finals.
He added Canada to the list earlier this year when he won at the Calgary Stampede in a short transatlantic hop from the UK where he had been mounting his successful bid to retain his place in the Scotland team for next July's World Championships in France, and in July threw out a big warning of his World title hopes when he won the Royal Welsh All Nations final.
With fastest time and best quality points on Saturday, Mutch won a six-man Open final, featuring just one Australian, by a whopping 6.85pts over runner-up Jack Fagan, of Te Kuiti. Defending champion Mark Grainger, also of Te Kuiti, was third.
Mutch shore the 20-sheep in 19min 43sec, almost 40 seconds ahead of second-man-off Ethan Pankhurst, currently based in Australia but whose history includes the 2015 Golden Shears Senior title in home-town Masterton.
Hayden Tapp, of Taihape was fourth, Pankhurst, penalised heavily by judges monitoring the quality, had to settle for fifth, and home-show hope and Warrnambool-Te Kuiti partnership stalwart Roger Mifsud was sixth, unable to match the visitors for pace in an event which has been dominated by New Zealand shearers over the years.
Mutch was also to the fore in the surprisingly dominant Te Kuiti transtasman challenge victory, with Warrnambool traditionally favoured in the Austalian leg of the annual home-and-away contests of eight sheep each – including four merinos.
The Australian trio of Glenn Stephens, Tryson Scholz and Mifsud were 1, 2, and in the race, Stephens at 12min 38sec finishing more than a minute-and-a-half before anyone else, and 2min 25sec before quickest Kiwi shearer Fagan.
Times indicated it was tougher than usual, but quality was the winner as the Kiwis turned it round big-time with a win by 19.4pts, compared with the Australian competition team's win by almost 11pts last year.
There was more success for the Kiwis, with Napier shearer Ricci Stevens adding the Senior title to the New Zealand championships Senior title he won at Te Kuiti in April. His final, over eight sheep each, was bereft of Australian competitors, with four from New Zealand and two from Wales.
Results from the New Zealand Shears Te Kuiti team's competition at the Romney Shears in Warrnambool, Vic., on Saturday:
Transtasman Challenge (8 sheep – 4 merino wethers, 4 crossbred ewes): New Zealand Shears Te Kuiti 215.81pts (Jack Fagan 15min 3sec, 66.53pts; Gavin Mutch 15min 33sec, 72.15pts; Mark Grainger 15min 35sec, 77.13pts) beat Romney Shears Warrnambool 235.21pts (Glenn Stephens 12min 38sec, 76.28pts; Tyson Scholz 14min 11sec, 79.18pts; Roger Mifsud 15min 10sec, 79.75pts) by 19.4pts.
Romney Shears Open final (20 sheep): Gavin Mutch (Whangamomona NZ) 19min 43sec, 70.9pts, 1; Jack Fagan NZ) 20min 52sec, 77.75pts, 2; Mark Grainger (Te Kuiti NZ) 21min 20sec, 79.3pts, 3; Hayden Tapp (TaihapeNZ) 21min 46sec, 79.75pts, 4; Ethan Pankhurst (Masterton NZ) 20min 22sec, 84.9pts, 5; Roger Mifsud (Mortlake, Vic) 26min 44sec, 92.1pts, 6.
Romney Shears Senior final (8 sheep): Ricci Stevens (Napier NZ) 10min 55sec, 45.25pts, 1; Brandon Maguire Ratima (Winton NZ) 11min 9sec, 48.83pts, 2; Ramone Smith (Gisborne NZ) 11min 17sec, 56.23pts, 3; Owen Davies (Wales) 13min 33sec, 57.28pts, 4; Sam Davison (Masterton NZ) 12min 35sec, 63.88pts, 5; Sam Powell (Wales) 13min 40sec, 44.88pts, 6.