It has been a while since Tony Dobbs competed on the world
stage but the Fairlie blade shearer is determined he will
once again be a force to reckon with.
However, his Albury team-mate and former blade-shearing
student Mike McConnell might just be the one to watch.
Dobbs, who returned from shearing sports retirement in
October, won the world blades title in 1992 and on Monday
left for Ireland to prepare to contest the title again. With
less than half a point in it, Dobbs and McConnell were first
and second respectively in the Shearing Sports New Zealand
open blade shearing final at the Mackenzie Shears in Fairlie.
This confirmed their places on the New Zealand team for this
year's World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in
Gorey, Ireland next month.
In recent years, world championship blade shearing has been
dominated by South Africa and Lesotho. Shearing was ''done on
the blades'' in those countries because it was cheaper but a
''machine-style result'' was expected, Dobbs said.
''[Consequently] their quality is terrific.''
This competition season, his first in nearly 20 years, had
been ''intense'' and it was a ''relief'' to have his place on
the team confirmed, he said.
But it was ''easier to read'' his New Zealand competition and
he had been working on his style for the past three or four
months to ''lift it up another gear'' for the world
His shearing experience in South Africa in the 1980s and '90s
had taught him about their style of shearing.
Interestingly, many were left-handed shearers but used
This meant the thumb was on the other side and the point of
the blades turned away from the skin, allowing shearers to
get a much closer cut, he said.
''But I've beaten them before.''
His hopes were in jeopardy a few months back when he broke
his thumb, but thankfully it had since returned to full
Dobbs began his comeback bid late last year, in Waimate.
He was talked into entering the competition by a friend and
was placed fourth in the New Zealand Spring Shears.
He followed it up with the New Zealand Corriedale title at
the Canterbury show in November.
''My 18-year-old daughter was sitting in the crowd at the
Canterbury shears and she was a baby when I last won it.''
He planned to compete in several Irish shows as preparation
for the championships.
Competition between McConnell and Dobbs has been close
throughout the season, with McConnell often winning points
for speed and Dobbs coming through on quality.
The rest of the team to represent New Zealand at the world
championships are machine shearers Rowland Smith, of
Hastings, and John Kirkpatrick, of Napier; and wool-handlers
Joel Henare, of Gisborne, and Veronica (Ronnie) Goss, of
- by Ruth Grundy