Final shearing contest draws top field

Shearers Kelly Macdonald (left), of Hawera, and Sarah Higgins, of Havelock, go all out in the junior final over three sheep at the Mackenzie Shears in Fairlie on Easter Monday. Photo by Ruth Grundy
Shearers Kelly Macdonald (left), of Hawera, and Sarah Higgins, of Havelock, go all out in the junior final over three sheep at the Mackenzie Shears in Fairlie on Easter Monday. Photo by Ruth Grundy

As the shearing sports competition season in this country ends, attention is shifting to the northern hemisphere and competitions on the world stage.

The last of the season's competitions was staged alongside the Mackenzie A&P Highland Show in Fairlie on Easter Monday, for the second consecutive year.

One of the three conveners, Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, said the competition had drawn some of the best shearers in the country, including three former world champions.

One of those, veteran shearer David Fagan, of Te Kuiti, made a surprise visit, flying south to compete in the open final as a tribute to longtime friend and mentor John Hough, who is retiring from the industry.

The open final was won by Tony Coster, of Rakaia. Young shearers were particularly well represented in the events as the sport climbed in popularity, Mr Dobbs said.

There had been a ''great crowd'' of spectators, with 350 or more looking on at times.

Such was its success organisers were considering having something purpose-built for the event, rather than continuing with marquees and temporary fixtures, he said.

One of the biggest drawcards had been the open-blade shearing final, in which Mr Dobbs and Albury shearer Mike McConnell confirmed their places on the team to represent New Zealand in Ireland next month.

Shearing commentator Norm Harraway, of Rakaia, said the New Zealand team was particularly strong this time and was favourite to win shearing titles at the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Gorey.

Mr Harraway would also be travelling to Ireland, as he had been asked to commentate.

It was a first for him and he was looking forward to it, although getting his tongue around some of the contestants' names might prove to be a challenge, he said.

Those confirmed to represent New Zealand at the World Championships are machine shearers Rowland Smith, of Hastings, and John Kirkpatrick, of Napier; blade shearers Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, and Mike McConnell, of Albury; and wool-handlers Joel Henare, of Gisborne, and Veronica (Ronnie) Goss, of Kimbolton.

The 16th World Championships begin on May 22.

- by Ruth Grundy