Stratford eyes another Golden Shears title

Nathan Stratford
Nathan Stratford
New Zealand’s most experienced transtasman test shearer, Nathan Stratford, of Southland, is is set to go another round as favourite to win the National Shearing Circuit.

With one preliminary round remaining, on second-shear sheep at the Pahiatua Shears tomorrow, Stratford is guaranteed of being top qualifier as the 27-strong field is cut to 12 for the final stages on the last day of the Golden Shears in Masterton next week.

The 12 will shear semifinals on the morning of March 2, the top six going to the final of 15 sheep (three of each of five wool types) a few hours later.

The winner becomes an automatic selection in a three-man New Zealand team for home-and-away transtasman tests next summer, and claimant to the status of champion New Zealand multi-breeds shearer.

Stratford is no stranger to the top echelon of shearing.

He is going for a 20th time in the final, having been fourth at his first appearance in 2000. He won in 2014 and 2022, and has twice been runner-up.

As a result of his performances, including five wins in the New Zealand Merino Championships final, which also carries automatic selection, he has shorn 17 tests in a transtasman career spanning 18 years — the past eight tests in a row — and will shear an 18th in another appearance at the Golden Shears, also on March 2.

In his 26th season of open-class shearing he is showing no sign of letting up, scoring maximum points in the first three legs this season, on merinos (fine wool) at Alexandra on September 30, full wool at Waimate on October 7, and Corriedales at Christchurch on November 17.

On lambs at Marton on February 3 he was headed only by Northland shearer Toa Henderson, who is sixth of the eight who appear safely through to the final day, although they must compete at Pahiatua to be eligible.

In second is Te Kuiti shearer Jack Fagan, son of nine-time winner Sir David Fagan. Central Otago shearer Leon Samuels, the 2022 winner is in third and 2019 winner Paerata Abraham of Masterton, is fourth.

Among the others is Alexandra merino-shearing veteran Dion Morrell, who won in 1997 and is in eighth place.