The top shearers and woolhandlers in New Zealand face the busiest time of the competition season from tomorrow through to the end of the 58th Golden Shears in Masterton next week.
The Taumarunui Jamboree Shears tomorrow and the Apiti Sports Shears on Saturday both feature shearing and woolhandling, the Pahiatua Shears on Sunday feature only shearing, and the Pre-Shears Woolhandling Championships at Massey University's Riverside Farm north of Masterton on Wednesday complete the build-up to the three-day Golden Shears which start next Thursday.
Much focus will be on the performances of Hawke's Bay guns Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick, particularly Smith, the 2014 world champion who has amassed 33 consecutive wins in finals, including last weekend's successful defences of Southern Shears Open title in Gore and the Counties Open title in Pukekohe last weekend, and last year's rare sequence of wins at Taumarunui, Apiti, Pahiatua and Masterton.
Reigning world champion Kirkpatrick and 2012 world champion Gavin Mutch have been regularly sharing the second and third placings in Smith's recent triumphs and serve as the biggest threats to the Maraekakaho shearer's record in Masterton. Kirkpatrick is also a strong prospect for a second win in the PGG Wrightson Wool National Circuit final, which he won in 2013 and was runner-up last year.
Masterton-based former Dannevirke shearer Paerata Abraham is among those challenging for position in the six-man finals of the two big events.
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Hawke's Bay's strongest other challenges for Golden Shears titles are posed by husband-and-wife Ricci and Angela Stevens, competing against each other in the Senior woolhandling and Ricci Stevens also chasing senior shearing honours, while surprise 2017 Golden Shears and New Zealand Junior shearing champion Mark Ferguson, of Kahuranaki, will be chasing this year's Intermediate title.
Several shearers from overseas who have been working in Hawke's Bay also present strong chances, including intermediate shearer Gwydion Davies, from Wales.¦