Planning starts for charity shearing

Co-organisers Rocky Bull (left) and Brent Jary want next year’s Shear for Life event at...
Co-organisers Rocky Bull (left) and Brent Jary want next year’s Shear for Life event at Hindsridge Farm to be another big fundraiser for cancer services. PHOTO: TIM CRONSHAW
Seasoned shearers will work their way through 3000 sheep over eight hours at a Hinds woolshed next year in memory of old mates lost to cancer.

Shearers over the age of 50 are already putting their hand up to be part of Shear for Life, a charity shearing event supporting the Ashburton Cancer Society and Hospice Mid Canterbury.

Last held in 2019, it is being staged again in February at the Ewing family’s Hindsridge Farm. The challenge ahead of them is to beat the $90,000 raised for charity.

The first event was born when co-founder Rocky Bull and a couple of shearing mates were talking on a veranda inland from Australia’s Mildura, in Victoria, about a friend who died of prostate cancer and a friend’s wife with terminal breast cancer.

They decided to come across, shear for a week and donate the money to cancer charities.

An initial group of about 10 shearers "grew fast" and it developed into a major event.

Shearers came from all over the country and Australia.

Among them were 18 current or ex-world record holders including Sir David Fagan, Alan MacDonald and Grant Smith, while former All Blacks Sir Buck Shelford, Sir Brian Lohore and Tane Norton, among others, joined the cause.

With more close friends dying from cancer, the shearers felt the time was right to organise a second event.

Mr Bull said these people needed to be remembered and the message got out to the community to have their health checked.

"Dick Ewing was the farmer when we ran that event and 12 months later he was gone. So we lost him and Sandra [Curd], our secretary, lost her husband, Rupert, and we had Sir Brian Lochore, Tane Norton and a few ex-All Blacks, so we wanted to do another one."

Their families told them hospices had provided fantastic support and were a worthy cause for fundraising, he said.

The veteran shearer has been based in Mid Canterbury for about 30 years.

Mainland Wool director and organising committee member Brent Jary said the late Mr Ewing had been a major part of the first event.

"He added another two stands to the shed to make it a nine-stand shed so it could work. It’s flash. He went out and bought 3000 lambs of very similar types so the shearers are all shearing the same lambs. His wife Suzanne is really keen for it to happen."

Mr Bull said they spoke to Mrs Ewing first about possibly running it again and she gave it her full support, including offering the farm as a venue again.

Mr Jary said they had initially thought the first event would be a "oncer", but when they got through it they believed they should have another crack at it in five years.

Covid-19 lockdowns got in the way and, a year later than expected, it would be held again, he said.

"A lot never made it last time and told us ‘make sure you tell us if you have another one’ because they did not want to miss out. So many were disappointed they could not make it."

He said the aim was to raise more funds and there had been a lot of interest among shearers, sponsors, businesses and others in the community.

"The last one blew us away and even when it did start getting big we were thinking maybe $30,000 because we had the three charities and maybe we could get $10,000 each to them and that would be good."

In the previous event, shearers worked 20-minute stints before moving on to the next shift.

They easily removed the fleece from 3000 sheep in the allotted eight hours and stopped for an hour so the All Blacks could speak to the large crowd jammed into the shed and marquee.

The concept of "getting mates together before they passed" will be repeated with more shearing women invited to attend.

A teddy bear shearing competition will be staged for children and organisers want to bring in the dairy industry to widen support.

Mr Bull said they had begun ringing up shearers again to confirm their attendance and expected another large turnout.

They wanted to line up a rural identity for the major host role and had someone in mind and others pitching in during the day, he said.

"We’re not interested in shearing a massive tally — it’s just to draw the crowd, get everyone’s attention and some money flowing.

"We are meant to be mixing and mingling and meeting. That was the whole idea of the last one and it was that busy there were so many people we didn’t get to say gidday, so this time around we will make sure they can mingle more."

All Black greats will be brought in again. Jock Ross has put the feelers out and Black Ferns will be invited to show their skills on the stands.

Background music will be provided by teenage country singer Milly Harrison.

Health checks on the day will remind shearers and supporters of the importance of early detection.


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