Woolhandling Ngaio Hanson will face one of the most important day of her own, her family's and her town's history with the shearing industry after winning a place in tomorrow's Shearing Sports New Zealand World championships woolhandling team selection showdown at the Golden Shears in Masterton.
Possible the bolter in a field of eight qualified for the final stages of the protracted selection process, the 29-year-old born and bred, and remaining, in Eketahuna, is in her eighth season of Open-class woolhandling, without a single win, and having reached only a small number of finals.
Her best result was runner-up to prolific-winning Golden Shears and World champion Joel Henare in the 2015 New Zealand championships final in Te Kuiti, and beating 2010 World teams champions Keryn Herbert and 2008 World individual champion Sheree Alabaster..
But she takes hope from the achievement of Gisborne woolhandler Maryanne Baty who with just one Open win behind her stepped out of the shadow of prolific-winning stars such as Henare, Alabaster, Herbert and South Island hope Pagan Karuaria in 2016 to win a place in the New Zealand team and claim a World teams title, with Henare, in Invercargill in February the following year.
It's a sport where competitors at all levels are generally close friends, but she concedes it's still good to see the top ones beaten every now and then, such being the case when Baty emerged to grab her black teeshirt at the last minute.
"We're all in the same space," she said as she reflected on the plight of the second tier who can still claim to be among the best in the World but who've had to settle for the minor placings over the last decade or so as Henare, Alabaster, Herbert and Karauria have claimed over 200 titles between them – over 80 per cent of all competitions in New Zealand in that time.
"We were all stoked when she (Baty) made it," said Hanson, who because of other commitments had barely competed in the selection series before Christmas, and hit the start of 2019 just 9th in pursuit of a place in the top four of the North Island section of 12 events.
"I didn't think I would have a show," she said.
But she then put together a string of consistent higher-placed performances, culminating in fourth place overall as the preliminary stage ended at the Pre-Shears Wairarapa Championships in a woolshed north of Masterton on Wednesday.
It pitched Herbert, 2008 World champion Alabaster, and Dannevirke's Eramiha Neho into a battle with South Island series qualifiers Karauria, Henare, Chelsea Collie, of Gore, and Cheri Peterson, of Milton, for New Zealand's two woolhandling places at the World championships on July 1-7 in Le Dorat, Central France.
The eight face a semi-final at the Golden Shears tomorrow morning(Saturday), the top four qualifying for the final on Saturday night, from which the winner and runner-up will go to France with two machine shearers and two blade shearers.
Hanson works in her long-running Braddick family's shearing contracting business now managed by husband Steve Hanson, the biggest employer in Eketahuna, a town 35kms northeast of Masterton with a population struggling to pass 500.