If one were to do a bit of conjecturing, Joel Henare might be looking towards a goal which could disappear at any time – to be the greatest Golden Shears champion of all time.
Well, almost, for if it's defined by the most Golden Shears wins in a row, Henare is in sight of Sir David Fagan's record of 12 – even if it does get harder every year.
Henare won the open wool handling title in all eight years since 2013 and Fagan's record was set in the open shearing championship from 1990 to 2001.
Henare's been in the Golden Shears open final in all the 14 years he's been in the top grade.
He came third as a 14-year-old in 2007, fourth in 2008, and runner-up in 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012, before embarking on his sequence of wins.
In 14 seasons in the open grade, Henare has not once failed to qualify for the Golden Shears open final.
He has also won four world titles (only late idol Joanne Kumeroa has won more) and his 14 transtasman tests are a record in wool handling internationals.
The fact is, at the age of 27 Henare's achieved just about everything there is to achieve - including retiring - which he more or less did two years ago, as short-lived as it was.
The "retirement" came at the time of his 2019 Golden Shears win, the 100th open of his career, a remarkable feat in the annals of New Zealand Sport, considering he also won the New Zealand Wool Handler of the Year in Balclutha at the age of 15, and was easily the youngest person acclaimed by Shearing Sports New Zealand as either a Master Shearer or Master Wool handler.
In short, it makes him the Jonah Lomu or Kane Williamson of shearing sports, the difference being it didn't include having to stay at school to prepare him for the real world on the outside.
While Gisborne was home, in the sheep-chasing nature of the shearing industry, school was the woolsheds of Central Otago, between what time was required in the classroom, which was mainly in Cromwell.
By the time Henare had his first win in competition, (aged 12), at Lumsden in January 2005, he was tagging along with mum Greta, already well-known in the industry and the sport, with more aunties than he cared to count.
Henare's mum and the aunties have been the mentors, for sure, but the Golden Shears heritage goes right back to the start in 1961.
His dad was a shearer, whose father's brother, Mac Potae, came fourth in the first Golden Shears Open shearing final.
Another brother, George Potae, won the big title in 1968 and Henare's grandmother, Vicky Maitland, won the Otago championships' first New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year final.
Henare's first Golden Shears was an experience in itself, as a 13-year-old piling into contractor Peter Lyon's van for a venture of uncharted waters, a roadtrip north from Alexandra, not knowing quite what to expect.
One of the party, Gina Nathan, won the open wool handling final, as was the case also in 2006.
Henare missed the junior final by just one place. He noted he was beaten into the top four, by Elaine Robin, also from Gisborne, who died in a crash a few weeks later.
Henare stayed with friends he'd met in Alexandra, setting a routine, as he stayed most years with Nicole and Sparrow.
On reflection, this was a significant factor as he prepared for the toughest three days of the year, sometimes fighting for the Golden Shears open title with people he worked with for the other 52 weeks.
"It's just keeping on track," he said, revealing it was his mum who kept pulling him up, even when he went through a phase of hating competitions.
When it comes to winning the Golden Shears open, Henare said "you've got to be on the right frequency".
Henare said he'd come off the board at the end of the final confident he'd won only once – in 2019, when he was retiring.
In the last "couple" of wins, he's had other things on his mind, like children – Keanu, 7, Hikurangi, 6, and Lee, 5, and their mum, Erica, a former lower grades wool handling champion, who now lives in Nelson.
If Henare missed a few days at school back in the day, it doesn't show. His knowledge of the industry is clear as he steps into the role of arena commentator at shows around the country.
But really, it's all about the big event in Masterton.
In 2017 it got him onto the cover of shearing's Rolling Stone – Shearing Magazine - and in 2021 it gets him onto the cover of the programme at the Golden Shears.
Henare still says the Golden Shears is everything.
"It's like going to the Grammies. It still takes my breath away, every time I walk into that hall."
Joel Henare's career highlights
First win: Lumsden Lamb Shear 2005
First open win: Central Hawke's Bay 2006
Total wins: (To 8 February 2021) 118 Awarded Master Wool Handler by SSNZ 2014
Representation: World championships 2; Transtasman Tests 14
Major sucesses: World Champion Individual and Teams 2012, 2017 Golden Shears Champion 2013-2020 NZ Shearing Championships 2010, 2015-2017 NZ Wool Handler of the Year, Balclutha 2008-2012, 2015-2020 NZ Merino Championships, Alexandra 2012, 2014, 2018 NZ Spring Shears, Waimate 2014, 2016-2018 NZ Corriedale
Championships, Christchurch 2013, 2015, 2016, 2018.
- Wairarapa Times-Age