Reigning Golden Shears champions Rowland Smith and Joel Henare loom as possibly the hottest favourites to win again this year after dominating the major events at the 58th Otago Shearing and woolhandling championships.
The two young dads have each been competing in the top class since their teens, and in The Balclutha Memorial Town Hall on Saturday 31-year-old Smith blitzed even reigning World champion and New Zealand teammate John Kirkpatrick to win the Otago Open shearing title and head New Zealand to a test-match win over Wales, while Henare, 26, won both the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year and Southern Circuit woolhandling titles.
Smith's Otago championships was his 8th in a row in the four weeks since his last blemish, when he failed to qualify for the final at the Tauranga show on January 14. But he's had 31 wins in finals in a row in New Zealand since he was fourth at the Rotorua A and P Show in January last year.
The class showed in Saturday's two 20-sheep events, Smith beating next-man-off and fellow Hawke's Bay shearer Kirkpatrick by over 45 seconds in the Open final and more than a sheep in the test match in which the black-singlet pair beat the Wales team of Matthew Evans and Alun Lloyd Jones by a wide margin of 15.858pts to go 2-0 up in the four-match CP Wool Shearing Series.
In the Open final his quality was bettered only by third placegetter and title defender Nathan Stratford of, Invercargill, but he still Smith had a winning margin of 3.2155pts, while in the test he had the best quality points to beat Kirkpatrick by more than 4pts overall.
In his 12th season in the top class, Henare's wins took him to 99 Open grade wins, the century looming at next weekend's Southern Shears in Gore. It was his 9th NZ Woolhandler of the Year title, and fourth in a row, his 15 wins since the start of last year include his second World individual title and at the GoldenShears in Masterton on March 1-3 he will be going for a record-equalling 6th Golden Shears Open woolhandling title.
In other shearing events, well-travelled Gore-based Lionel Taumata, from Taumarunui, returned to winning form after three second placings to win his fourth Senior shearing title of the season, Gwydion Davies, from Wales, claimed the Intermediate title and became the first overseas shearer to win at Balclutha since 2010, and in the Junior final Brayden Clifford, of Gore, had the biggest of his four wins to date.
It was the time for young and up-and-coming woolhandlers to make their mark as the shears opened on Friday.
The busiest was Gore's Sharon Tuhakaraina, reaching three finals. She won the South Island Senior woolhandling circuit final, took to the handpiece to finish fifth in the Junior shearing final and qualified for the Woolhandler of the Year Senior final in which she was runner-up on Saturday to Krystal Gulliver, also of Gore.
Waikato woolhandler Tyler Hira, from Onewhero, started her fourth trip to the South Island this season by winning the Otago Junior final, after just scraping into the semi-final as ninth of nine qualifiers.
The win goes with the New Zealand Spring Shears title she won at Waimate in October, and a Southland double of a longwool title at Lumsden and a New Zealand crossbred lambs title at Winton on successive days last month.
On Friday she had to settle for second place in the South Island Circuit Junior final, which provided the first win for Krome Elers, of Mataura and brother of Senior final runner-up Nova Kumeroa-Elers.
RESULTS from the 58th Otago shearing and woolhandling championships on Friday and Saturday, February 9-10, 2018:
CP Wool Shearing Series, Second test (20 sheep): New Zealand 133.451pts (Rowland Smith 18min 24.34sec, 64.717pts; John Kirkpatrick 19min 31.68sec, 68.734pts) beat Wales 149.309pts (Alun Lloyd Jones 19min 48.31sec, 72.9655pts; Matthew Evans 19min 27.87sec, 76.3425pts) by 15.858pts. New Zealand lead 2-0. The third test is at Gore on February 17 and the fourth at Apiti on February 24.
Open final (20 sheep): Rowland Smith (Maraekakaho) 17min 27.78sec, 59.239pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 18min 13.09sec, 62.4545pts, 2; Nathan (Stratford) 18min 59.53sec, 63.7265pts, 3; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 18min 24sec, 65.4pts, 4; Hayden Tapp (Taihape) 19min 10.56sec, 69.228pts, 5.
Senior final (12 sheep): Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 15min 53.41sec, 54.5038pts, 1; Ricci Stevens (Napier) 15min 20.93sec, 55.3798pts, 2; George Hawkins (Martinborough) 15min 49.78sec, 59.739pts, 3; Gilles Grancher (France) 16min 16.03sec, 60.3848pts, 4; Barney Cummings (Winton) 15min 46.34sec, 61.067pts, 5.
Intermediate final (5 sheep): Gwydion Davies (Wales) 8min 47.46sec, 32.773pts, 1; Jesse Barclay (Mataura) 8min 31.9sec, 33.995pts, 2; Tyson Crown (Mataura) 9min 33.75sec, 37.0875pts, 3; James Dickson (Gore) 9min 49.37sec, 37.4685pts, 4; Augustin Cairey-Rermonnay (France) 8min 51.37sec, 39.3685pts, 5.
Junior final (4 sheep): Brayden Clifford (Gore) 12min 44.47sec, 47.4735pts, 1; Flynn Harvey (Kaitaia) 13min 9.69sec, 49.2345pts, 2; Jonah Collins (Mataura) 12min 13.93sec, 49.9465pts, 3; Ryan Kirk (Mataura) 12min 18.09sec, 51.6545pts, 4; Sharon Tuhakaraina (Gore) 14min 49.59sec, 61.2295pts, 5.
New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year:
Open final: Joel Henare(Gisborne/Motueka) 147.82pts, 1; Pagan Karauria (Alexandra) 198.206pts, 2; Chelsea Collier (Gore) 267.46pts, 3; Sheree Alabaster (Taihape) 312.75pts, 4.
Senior final: Krystal Gulliver (Gore( 155.4pts, 1; Sharon Tuhakaraina (Gore) 195.79pts, 2; Nova Kumeroa Elers 208.88pts, 3; Ebony Turipa (Gore) 235.45pts, 4.
Junior final: Tyler Hira (Onewhero) 144.744pts, 1; Whati Mihaere (Tolaga Bay) 161.06pts, 2; Leslie Pairama (Porangahau) 196.1pts, 3; Caitlin Bye (Invercargill) 200.1pts, 4.
South Island Woolhandling Circuit:
Open final: Joel Henare (Gisborne/Motueka) 64.486pts, 1; Keryn Herbert (Te Awamutu/Te Kuiti) 88.432pts, 2; Pagan Karauria (Alexandra) 91.044pts, 3; Angelique Miller (Gore) 104.12pts, 4; Tina Elers (Mataura) 131.224pts, 5.
Senior final: Sharon Tuhakaraina (Gore) 72.526pts, 1; Nova Kumeroa-Elers (Mataura) 116.264pts, 2; Krystal Gulliver (Gore) 126.52pts, 3.
Junior final: Krome Elers (Mataura) 64.012pts, 1; Tyler Hira (Onewhero) 80.15pts, 2; Saskia Tuhakaraina (Gore) 93.744pts, 3.
Teams Shearing and Woolhandling: Kirkpatrick Shearing (shearers John Kirkpatrick, Dion Morrell; woolhandlers Pagan Karauria/Foonie Waihape) 122.781pts, 1; The Amateurs (shearers Rowland Smith/Nathan Stratford; woolhandlers Joel Henare/Keryn Herbert) 124.647pts, 2; Handpiece Hustlers 139.291pts, 3; Platium 145.46pts, 4.