Napier shearer and woolhandler Ricci Stevens is zeroing-in on the possibility of following both his wife and her father into Open-class competition with a unique twist.
After two wins in Senior shearing finals in the last fortnight, at Kumeu on March 10 and at Raetihi last Saturday, Stevens is close to becoming possibly the first shearing sports competitor to graduate to the top class in both shearing and woolhandling based on their competition results.
He needs two wins in each discipline, meaning that with three shearing competitions remaining he could be shearing in the Open class alongside father-in-law and World champion John Kirkpatrick.
But with just one woolhandling competition remaining it may be another season before he goes up to Open woolhandling, following wife Angela who is expected to graduate next season after passing the Senior-to-Open threshold before Christmas.
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Stevens, originally from Gisborne and who is a graduate of sports exercise studies at Massey University, has had six wins in two seasons of Senior shearing, and three wins in Senior woolhandling this season, since becoming Shearing Sports New Zealand's No 1 ranked Junior woolhandler for 2016-2017, when he won both the Golden Shears and New Zealand championships' Junior woolhandling titles.
Stevens has had two A-grade show wins in each discipline, each worth three points on the SSNZ grading scale. Competitors in Senior shearing are graded-up at the end of the season in which they reach 21pts, while in Senior woolhandling the threshold is 13pts. He has 17 Senior shearing points and 8pts in Senior woolhandling.
The remaining North Island competitions are at Waitomo on Saturday, Auckland at Easter, and the national championships at Te Kuiti the following week, but only the Te Kuiti event includes Senior woolhandling.
Kirkpatrick was runner-up to 2012 World champion Gavin Mutch in the Waimarino Shears Open final at Raetihi on Saturday, with fellow Hawke's Bay gun Rowland Smith not defending the title he had won for the previous six years in a row.
Stevens' rivals in the Senior final included new Golden Shears Senior champion Tegwyn Bradley, of Woodville, and 2017 New Zealand Intermediate champion Sean Gouk, of Masterton, who finished second and third respectively. Woodville's Daniel Seed won the Intermediate final.
Stevens was a particularly busy competitor at the Golden Shears, where he also competed in the woolpressing and was runner-up in the Men's final.