About 300 shearers, woolhandlers and wool pressers are starting to gather in Masterton for the 58th Golden Shears which start today (Thursday) and end on Saturday.
By today, 281 people had entered, some in several of the events that will be decided over the three days in the Masterton War Memorial Stadium, where the championships have been held every year since the event was established in 1961.
While the glamour event, as it has been since the first “Shears”, is the Godlen Shears Open Shearing Championship, to be decided in a six-man final over 20 second-shear sheep each on Saturday night, there are more than 20 events.
They include Golden Shears titles in Open, Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Novice shearing, Open, Senior, Junior and Novice woolhandling, and Men’s, Women’s and Pairs titles in wool pressing.
The other major events are the PGG Wrightson Wool National Shearing Circuit final, effectively a national multi-wools championship for Open-class shearers and incorporating the McSkimming Memorial Trophy which was first presented in 1973, and transtasman Shearing and Woolhandling internationals, with origins back to the start of annual home and away shearing tests in 1974.
Other events include the Golden Shears Maori-Pakeha teams shearing event, the national Open shearing and teams shearing and woolhandling events, and the North Island Circuit Open woolhandling final, while those entered in all three disciplines of shearing, woolhandling and woolpressing have the chance of winning the Golden Shears Triathlon title, based on their points in the heats of each event.
Also at stake are the long-standing YFC national Open shearing and teams shearing and woolhandling titles, and Golden Shears Open and Senior speed shearing titles.
With veterans shearing and woolhandling events added to the programme, for competitors aged over 60 years, the age of competitors is expected to range from that of 14-yerar-old Junior shearing title hopeful Reuben Alabaster, of Taihape, to veterans aged up to about 80 years, including 1967 Golden Shears Intermediate champion Hugh McCarroll MNZM, formerly of Tauranga and now of Whangamata, and fellow Shearing Sports New Zealand life member Robin Kidd, of Taupo.
The warm favourites for the two major Open titles are the defending champions, shearer Rowland Smith, of Maraekakaho, near Hastings, and woolhandler Joel Henare, from Gisborne, but now living with his wife and three children in Motueka, where he he works fulltime in a Talleys fish shed.
Smith has not been beaten in a final in New Zealand since January last year, while Henare is going for his sixth consecutive Golden Shears Open woolhandling title, and during the week his 100th Open-class woolhandling title.
Apart from the wool pressing, there are no gender-based events, with male and female competiting equally across the grades. Female shearers are in serious contention for finals places at least from Novice to Senior grades.
The more prominent include Woodville shearer Laura Bradley, who was Shearing Sports New Zealand’s No 1 ranked Intermediate shearer in the 2016-2017 season and who now finds herself vying with prolific-winning brother Tegwyn Bradley for Senior shearing honours.
More than 25 women made finals in the Shearing Sports New Zealand calendar of about 60 shows last season, and among those whoi have made finals this season are Intermediate competitors Emily Te Kapa, of Scotland, and Anne-Lise Humstad, of Norway.
There is particularly strong competition from overseas shearers in the Intermediate grade, including Jeremy Leygonie gunning for France’s first title at the Golden Shears, ahead of France’s hosting of the next Wortld Championships in Le Dorat in July 2019. Competitor from at least nine countries will be taking part.
All events are judged on aspects of time and quality, aimed to mirror the aim for efficiency, wool quality and animal welfare in the woolshed and help improve those standards.
Shearing competitions have been around New Zealand for at least 150 years, a report of an 1868 blade shearing contest at Waipukurau having recorded it as being the first “inland” competition in the region, and the first machine shearing competition in the World is thought to have been at the Hawke’s Bay A and P Show in 1902, the winner immortalised in the current name of that event, the Great Raihania Shears.