Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford has loomed as a big hope of claiming the South Island’s first win in the Golden Shears Open final for the first time in 28 years.
Stratford was the top qualifier in this afternoon’s semi-finals, combining both quality and speed to possibly the best effect in his 20-year Open-class career in which the biggest highlight came only last month when he and Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick won the World teams title in ILT Stadium Southland.
Known usually to rely on quality to make-up for deficiencies in speed, he shore in the first heat of today’s 12-man semi-finals and was one of just four to shear the 10 sheep in under 10 minutes, including a rare time-honours victory over hot favourite and defending chamoion Rowland Smith, of Hastings.
The finalists for the 20-sheep final being shorn about 9pm and expected to last less than 20 minutes are, in order of qualifying, Nathan Stratford (Invercargill), David Buick (Pongaroa), Gavin Mutch (Scotland), Rowland Smith (Hastings), Aaron Haynes (Feilding) and Murray Henderson (Halcombe).
World champion Joel Henare, of Gisborne, substantiated his hot favouritism to successfully defend his Golden Shears title, and will be up against seven-times New Zealand champion Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape, Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, and Anne Maree Kahukura, of Omakau.
From Doug Laing, media officer, Shearing Sports New Zealand.