World champion woolhandler Joel Henare paid a first visit to Northland last week, helping the women rousies in Ross and Olive Guy's Kaeo-based shearing gang improve their skills.
During three days working with the women in the Mangatoa Landcorp woolshed west of Kaikohe he passed on many expert tips to tune up efficiency and quality control as wool made its way from the shearing stand to the press operator.
And he enjoyed his inaugural visit to the North, particularly when the women he was training later introduced him to coastal Hokianga and the majesty of Tane Mahuta.
Henare is 27 and has had a stellar career since starting woolshed work at age 12. He had his first open-class woolhandling win at 15 and his tally now of more than 100 wins includes four world championship individual and teams titles in 2012 and 2017. It also includes a record six consecutive Golden Shears open titles and four wins in the New Zealand Championships open final. And he's had eight wins in the Otago Shears' New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year final, the first five in a row before he'd turned 21.
Over summer Henare was battling for the right to defend his world title at the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in France in July, but lost team selection to Pagan Karauria, 30, of Alexandra, who will be following in the footsteps of her father and world record breaking shearer Dion Morrell, and mother Tina Rimene, a former world woolhandling team champion and three-times Golden Shears open woolhandling champion.
But Henare could be back for the next round of world woolhandling honours in 2022. A solo parent with three sons — Keanu, 5, Hikurangi, 4, and Lee, 3 — to support, he has been considering diversifying into real estate sales or expanding the training role he had undertaken at Kaikohe.
"My children are my No1 priority. I'd like to be a fulltime stay-at-home dad," he said. "But I'd also like to stay on form with the woolhandling so I might get another chance at world champs selection next time."
Henare and his boys are living in his home town of Gisborne at present, but he would like to move back to the Tasman region where he had been based in recent years.
"Mokueka is really nice," he said.
The 4676ha Mangatoa Landcorp station runs 9000 ewes, 300 hoggets, 700 cows, 1300 weaner calves and finishes about 1200 two-year-old steers annually. It has 8-11 fulltime staff and 3-4 casual staff.
The Guy shearing gang clipped almost 23 tonnes of wool from the sheep this year, filling 120 bales with about 190kg of wool each.
Olive Guy said Henare had been commissioned to come North to aid the professional development of the gang's woolhandlers, who "had never rubbed shoulders with someone like him before".
"Joel is passionate about improvements in the industry so he is very keen to help our girls be more effective and add value to the farmer's wool cheque," she said.