Aspiration met perspiration in Balclutha on Saturday, as the nation's top shearers and woolhandlers battled it out for Otago honours.

Conditions for competitors at the Otago Shearing and Woolhandling Championships were at the challenging end of the spectrum in the town's War Memorial Hall, as temperatures topped 28degC.

Demonstrating why he is world champion was Gisborne woolhandler Joel Henare, competing in his final South Island event before he retires later this year.

In a masterclass display, Henare ran away with the open finals competition, tallying 145.820 against second-placed Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, on 225.506.

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A modest Henare described his performance as "good enough", adding he was optimistic he would be selected for the Golden Shears and a subsequent tilt at retaining his world title in France this July.

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After 14 years in the sport, 27-year-old Henare said he planned to retire this year due to a "change of priorities".

"I'll be spending more time looking after my family, and I'm looking at giving real estate a go.

"I've been lucky to be able to do what I love for a long time. It's a good life in the shed. I've been great places and met great people.

"Hopefully I can go out with a bang."

The afternoon's open shearing finals were a more competitive affair, but paralleled the woolhandling for excitement.

Current world champion, Joel Henare, of Gisborne, won the Otago Open Woolhandling championship in his final South Island event before he retires later this year. Photo / Richard Davison
Current world champion, Joel Henare, of Gisborne, won the Otago Open Woolhandling championship in his final South Island event before he retires later this year. Photo / Richard Davison

There was nothing separating Invercargill's Troy Pyper and Mataura's Brett Roberts as the contest entered its last stages, as both men jockeyed for out-and-out speed.

In the end, though, a silky-smooth Roberts prevailed to take the title, after Pyper tallied the highest time and outside faults during his run, finishing fourth.

Second and third places were taken respectively by world champion pairing Johnny Kirkpatrick, of Napier, and Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill.

David Buick, of Whangaroa, came a close fifth, despite leading earlier rounds.

Otago event chairman Bruce Walker said although the quality of competition was "exceptional" this year, he wanted to see that matched in future by "quantity".

"The industry's feeling the squeeze [of lower wool prices] a bit, and that's perhaps reflected in lower numbers of entrants at the top level.

"We're lucky to have some amazing sponsors, but shearing as a whole in New Zealand needs the industry to step up and show its support.

"Competition like this helps us set the standard."