Hawke's Bay shearer Dion King made a dramatic return to winning form in the Great Raihania Shears open final at the Royal New Zealand Show in Hastings on Friday.
The 44-year-old former Golden Shears and New Zealand open champion showed he really meant business by shearing the 20 fullwool sheep in 18min 35sec — 32 seconds quicker than reigning Golden Shears and NZ champion Rowland Smith.
Quality points all but made up the leeway for the 33-year-old Smith, with King ultimately claiming the $1000 first prize by just 0.1pts in the final count.
But it wasn't the end of the day's business for King who then headed 20km up the road to bank another $1000 for fastest time of 22.63sec at the first Puketapu Hotel Speedshear.
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It was the sixth Great Raihania Shears win for King, who was on the committee which brought shearing back to the Hawke's Bay show in 2004, the name commemorating the first machine shearing competition in the world, in Hawke's Bay in 1902.
King won the open final for the first three years in a row after the the resurrection, but the formline going into the 2019 competition could hardly have been more different, King having competed only sparingly since his last open final win almost four years ago up against 2019 World Championships runner-up Smith who had won all his 17 finals in New Zealand since being beaten in last year's Great Raihania Shears final.
The picket-fence formline had looked likely to continue when Smith was also top qualifier from Friday's heats and semifinal.
It was a particularly unique final for while there was just the narrowest margin between the winner and runner-up, it was even closer in the race for the minors. Seven points adrift, a quality-marks countback was gave third place to Aaron Haynes after he and Waipawa sherarer Cam Ferguson tied on 73.45pts.
There was also a close result in the open woolhandling final in which Angela Gage, recently moved back from the South Island to home-town Gisborne but having not worked in the woolsheds for several years, made it two-from-two in the opening North Island competitions of the season, having opened with a win six days earlier at the Poverty Bay A&P Show.
In her Hastings victory she beat runner-up and former world teams title winner Keryn Herbert, of Te Kuiti, by just 2.2pts, with third place going to 2019 world teams title winner Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape.
• Doug Laing is media officer for Shearing Sports NZ and a senior NZME journalist