South Canterbury farmer Tony Dobbs is set to make a bid for a world first 100th open bladeshearing title this week by returning to where it all started more than 40 years ago - the 53rd Waimate Spring Shears.
But the 58-year-old from Fairlie is not going to the shear on Friday and Saturday with any great expectations, saying he'd barely shorn a sheep with the blades since he and fellow South Canterbury shearer Allan Oldfield won their world titles in France 15 months ago.
Most of his shearing since the big triumphs was about 200 of his own lambs with a machine handpiece during the Covid lockdown earlier this year.
While determined not to "go out on 99", he said he hadn't been able to prepare for this year's Waimate Shears, which opened the 2020-2021 Shearing Sports New Zealand season.
But he will be there judging, and had paid the entry fee to shear, so he "may as well."
Dobbs said he first shore at the Waimate Shears in 1979, and he'd won the open blade shearing title 12 times, one more than the number of times Sir David Fagan won the Waimate Shears open machine shearing title.
Dobbs had also won the Canterbury Show's Golden Blade New Zealand Corriedale Championship 18 times in 23 attempts, a form line he noted would beat anything else in the Christchurch show and cups week.
In 2013 he came out of a retirement of more than a decade, to start a successful bid to represent New Zealand at the next year's World Championships in Ireland, and hit the road running, with the first of four more consecutive Golden Blades titles.
On his chances this week, and appreciating that time does march on, he said: "I've come back before, and managed to pull something out of the bag."
As for pulling down the blinds on the career, he said he was not going to say he'd finish when he got win number 100.
If it didn't happen this week, there was always the Canterbury Shears, which will be held this year on November 5-6 at Marble Point, near Hanmer Springs, having been brought forward a week at the alternative venue after the cancellation of this year's Canterbury show (the New Zealand Agricultural Show).
There was also the next World Championships, at the Royal Highland Show's 200th anniversary in Edinburgh in 2022.
"Who knows?" Dobbs said.