Accolades for Hough in final season

Shearing Sports New Zealand official John Hough, who is in  his final season of  shearing competitions,  competes at the Canterbury Shears at the Canterbury A&P Show last year. Photo by Ruth Grundy.
Shearing Sports New Zealand official John Hough, who is in his final season of shearing competitions, competes at the Canterbury Shears at the Canterbury A&P Show last year. Photo by Ruth Grundy.

The travelling road show dubbed the ''last stand'' is having a ball, with many youngsters coming forward to shake the hand of the master - master shearer John Hough, that is.

The Rakaia shearer and Shearing Sports New Zealand official has decided to make this shearing sports season his last before retiring.

Hough, who declines to give his age but is believed to be about 70, has been joined by six mates, all retired shearers. They are working their way through competitions up and down the country, including next month's Golden Shears, in Masterton, and the New Zealand championships, in Te Kuiti.

Mr Hough, who is Shearing Sports New Zealand South Island committee chairman, began shearing at 18 and first competed in open-class shearing 40 years ago. He was accorded Master Shearer status in 1986.

Courier Country caught up with team manager and the youngest of the ''last stand'' team, Rocky Bull, in Gore, as the team begins the countdown to the final leg.

The team was putting up a pretty good performance, winning through on quality points if not on speed, he said.

''It's been a helluva lot of fun ... we've got a bit more fun to have yet.

''It's pretty competitive amongst each other ... I can't tell you who's doing the best,'' Mr Bull said, laughing.

Although they had not been able to compete as a team at every shears, members had competed at the New Zealand Merino Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, in Alexandra, the Canterbury Shears, Pleasant Point Gymkhana, Lumsden, Winton, Balclutha and Gore.

Next month, they will turn out at the Golden and NZ Shears, then Mayfield, Methven and Oxford.

The tour culminates at the Mackenzie shears in Fairlie on Easter Monday.

Mr Bull said ''Houghy'' had been honoured by all he met on tour as a ''legend''.

Reportedly, fellow celebrity shearers, the Fagans, have ''a surprise'' planned for the national gathering at Te Kuiti, he said.

Team mate and show commentator Norm Harraway said it had been a matter of pride the team members, all tutors at one time, had ''got off the bottom rung'' at the competitions.

''It was a lot of fun.''

''Houghy smoked them in the heats'' and has had rounds of applause at each contest.

''He's put in such a lot to Shearing Sports New Zealand over the years, he's helped every one of us.''

Many of the young shearers made a point of coming up to him and shaking his hand, Mr Harraway said.

The other shearers in the team are Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Gavin Rowland, Tom Wilson, Robert McLaren and John Fraser.