New Zealand has a new top woolhandler, after Alexandra woman Pagan Rimene toppled long-standing champion Joel Henare on Saturday.
Rimene was among a swag of top performers from the South at the Otago Shearing and New Zealand Woolhandling Championships, which took place at Carterhope Estate just south of Balclutha.
The perennial contender said she was excited about the "awesome" win, although a little shocked, given she had been shearing in Australia for the past 18 months.
"I’ve been training for years to win this, and I go and have a two-year break in Aussie and come back and win it, so it’s crazy.
"I had no stress, was more organised this year, but I can’t explain [my victory] at this moment."
The victory was all the sweeter for toppling seemingly invincible Gisborne woolhandler Henare, who entered Saturday’s competition on the back of eight successive New Zealand titles, and 13 in the past 15 years.
"I love competing against [Henare]. I think we bring the best out in each other.
"We’ve been side by side [woolhandling] since we were 13 ... so it’s been years," Rimene said.
Roxburgh veteran and New Zealand titleholder Leon Samuels went neck and neck with Henderson to edge his third Otago title, in a lightning-quick, tense final that also featured former Otago champions Nathan Stratford (third) and Brett Roberts (fourth).
Southerners performing in non-open classes included intermediate shearing champion Emma Martin, of Gore.
Martin also took a fourth place in the senior woolhandling champs, behind fellow Gore residents Autumn Hiri (second) and Saskia Tuharaina (third).
Balclutha’s Te Aroha Little took fourth in the junior woolhandler of the year, and Jack Pringle, also of Balclutha, took fifth in senior shearing.
Nathan Bee, of Wyndham, came second in that class, followed in third by Mataura shearer Dre Roberts.
Tina Elers, of Mataura, came fourth in the open woolhandling.
Shears president Ken Payne said he was delighted with the biggest turnout for several years, which included contenders from Germany, Ireland and Australia.
"The numbers are up significantly this year, at 75, and the junior grades in particular have bulked up, which is a great sign for the future of the competition.
"The down side of that is we’ve started bloody early today to get through, but as you can see it’s buzzing in the woolshed, so we’re delighted."
Payne would not rule out a return to former long-standing venue the Balclutha War Memorial Hall, now TPŌMA.
"There are some setup costs and planning that need to happen before we return, but some of our younger members are keen, so it’s definitely not been discounted."
He thanked Carterhope, sponsors, volunteers and his committee for putting on a "brilliant" show.