Sheep shearing hub Alexandra will celebrate one of its own in the presenting of a particularly unique Master Woolhandler award as the shearing sports season starts in the Central Otago town this week.

The recipient, Pagan Karauria, will be following in the footsteps of father and World Record breaker Dion Morrell, a Master Shearer, and mother Tina Rimene, a Master Woolhandler, former world teams champion and three-times Golden Shears open woolhandling champion.

The honour was decided by unanimous vote at the annual meeting of Shearing Sports New Zealand in August, and will be presented during the Friday and Saturday New Zealand Merino shearing and woolhandling championships in Alexandra.

Karauria, who learnt of the acclaim on her 30th birthday, was being kept in some suspense as to who might present the award. "I don't know," she said. "My dad? He's the president."


It's already been a big year for Karauria who bounced back from a serious back injury and the trauma of being the driver in a van crash which resulted in the deaths of two workmates 10 years ago to become of the best woolhandlers in the World.

In April she won the first Royal Easter Show woolhandling title in Auckland, and she's become one of the centres of attraction in movie She Shears, which debuted in the New Zealand International Film Festival and will be launched in cinemas nationwide on October 11.

While reaching the ultimate accolade, Karauria still has other goals, top-of-the list qualifying for one of the two places in the New Zealand woolhandling team for the World Championships in France next July. She just missed out in 2016 when third to Joel Henare and Maryanne Baty who went on to win the World teams title in Invercargill the following February.

She still has regular treatment to overcome the strains, her back however somewhat strengthened by shearing as well as woolhandling.

"Both my shoulder and the middle of my back have blown-out at the moment," she said this week after a session training younger competitors ahead of this week's season-opener.

It tends to be worst when the season's kicking in, and she's seeing a chiropractor in addition to trying to find the keys to winning an exacting New Zealand team selection series.

"I've put a training programme in place, I'm seeing a nutritionist and changed my diet, and I've got a manager to come in at the major events," she said.

As well as competing the open woolhandling this week, hoping to win New Zealand's only fine-wooled merino title for a third time, she will be in the senior shearing, hoping to improve on the 6th place she achieved in its final last year.

But she plans that will be her last shearing event as she concentrates on woolhandling selection series, hopefully with good points in the early rounds. "It can be a bit stressful if you get a bad start," she said.

Among other goals might be the elusive Golden Shears and New Zealand Open Championship title in March, in which she was runner-up and fourth respectively last season.

She is one of several world-class New Zealand woolhandlers who have had to continue in the shadow of Joel Henare, whom she regards as a mentor despite the fact he's three years younger and who this year racked-up a 100th career win.