Organisers of the 61st Golden Shears in Masterton next week are reminding competitors of the advantages of getting entries in this week, despite the uncertainty created by Covid-19.
Entries after Thursday will incur a late fee of 50 per cent.
President Sam Saunders said late entries risked missing the cut for the March 4-6 championships in Masterton's War Memorial Stadium, where the Golden Shears, which runs a budget around $250,000, have been held every year since its inception in 1961.
However, whether competitors were on time or late, Saunders said they wouldn't lose their money if Covid-19 alert levels were stepped-up and forced what would be the Golden Shears first-ever cancellation.
"We wouldn't be able to run if the alert was Level 2 or greater," he said.
"If we have to cancel, everyone will be refunded. If people have paid their entries and something happened we would pay them back."
"We wouldn't want to see anyone out of pocket – not our sheep suppliers, our sponsors or the competitors."
While the number of entries received wasn't able to be confirmed on Tuesday, Saunders believed some competitors were waiting to see what unfolded over the next few days.
While Tuesday's news of three more cases of Covid-19 in the community wasn't encouraging, it was confined to Auckland, and organisers hoped the Golden Shears wouldn't be affected.
"Nobody knows. We just keep our fingers crossed, but I think it will go ahead," Saunders conceded.
Last year, the celebration of 60 years of Golden Shears took place amid rapidly-growing fears of the arrival of Covid-19 in New Zealand, and the 2019-2020 season survived just one more week before the lockdown was imposed later in the month.
Golden Shears entries peaked at about 580 shearers around the second World Championships in 1980, when sheep were nearing their highest numbers in 1982 - 70 million.
With the ovine population now hovering around 27 million, competitor numbers have declined over the years, but the more-than 300 shearers, woolhandlers, and pressers each year helped the championships retain the image of being the Holy Grail of shearing sports worldwide.
Many of this year's hopefuls will also be taking part in the four-day build up, at the Taumarunui Shears and Apiti Sports Shearing and Woolhandling Championships on Friday and Saturday respectively, the 50th Pahiatua Shears shearing championships on Sunday, and the Wairarapa Pre-Shears Woolhandling Championships next Wednesday.