Mark Barrowcliffe may be top boss in the shearing industry but he also runs a gang of some of the top up-and-coming talent as was evident on the opening day of the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti yesterday.
Staff of the Piopio-based New Zealand Shearing Contractors Association claimed the first two titles of the three-day championships, the junior woolhandling final won by Rahera Kerr, 31, from Hauturu, and the senior final by Azuredee Paku, 36, from Masterton.
Both from intergenerational shearing families, they were unofficial favourites as the top performers in their grades during the season.
Kerr reached 10 finals and added yesterday's success to earlier wins at the Central Hawke's Bay and P Show in Waipukurau in November and the Rangitikei Shearing Sports North Island Championships in Marton in February.
Paku reached nine finals, with just the one previous win, also at Marton, but was now looking forward to mixing it with the big guns of the open grade next season.
Among Kerr's mentors has been Te Kuiti's Keryn Herbert, who retained the North Island Open Woolhandling Circuit title, in a final normally held at the Golden Shears in Masterton, which were cancelled last month because of Covid-19 Level 2 alert.
Herbert's win, qualifying for a place in the New Zealand transtasman series team next summer if the series goes ahead, was some consolation for missing out on a place in the five for the New Zealand Shears open final, to be contested on Saturday night.
Herbert, and nine times winner and 2010 World Teams Champions teammate Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape, were both eliminated in the semi-finals.
Former Southland shearer Troy Pyper justified his late decision to fly north for the Shears by being top qualifier for the National All-Breeds Shearing Championships, which will be shorn on Saturday afternoon and which would otherwise also have been held in Masterton.
Yesterday's semifinal comprised 12 qualifiers from an earlier curtailed series of four shows.
It was a disaster for Hawke's Bay-based Scotsman and former world and Golden Shears champion Gavin Mutch.
Mutch was the top qualifier from the preliminaries but was held up by car problems en route, and made it with barely 30 seconds to spare, only to tail the field on the day.
Entries for the championships accelerated to the highest level in Te Kuiti for several years, with more than 270 shearers and woolhandlers expected to have taken part by the end on Saturday night.
The championships weren't held last year because of the Covid-19 lockdown.
Listen to Jamie Mackay and Rowena Duncum interview Rowland Smith at the NZ Shearing Champs on The Country below:
Results from the first day of the 2021 New Zealand Shearing Championships in Te Kuiti on April 8-10
National All-Breeds Shearing Circuit semi-final (8 sheep -2 merino, 2 longwool, 2 second-shear, 2 lambs, first 6 shearers to final on Saturday afternoon):
Troy Pyper (Invercargill/Cheviot) 10min 16.92sec, 42.971pts, 1; John Kirkpatrick (Napier/Pakipaki) 11min 15.25sec, 45.513pts, 2; Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 11min 33.37sec, 46.919pts, 3; Leon Samuels (Invercargill) 11min 29.64sec, 49.607pts, 4; Ringakaha Paewai (Gore) 12min 0.18sec, 52.009pts, 5; Axle Reid (Taihape) 12min 56.09sec, 53.555pts, 6; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 12min 4.24sec, 54.212pts, 7; Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 11min 50.07sec, 56.754pts, 8; James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 13min 12.13sec, 57.982pts, 9; Simon Goss (Mangamahu) 12min 21.43sec, 58.947pts, 10; Matene Mason (Masterton) 12min 18.47sec, 60.799pts, 11; Gavin Mutch (Scotland/Dannevirke) 10min 33.18sec, 61.284pts, 12.