Thursday, November 30, 2023

Big wins put Golden Shears hopeful on track for major upset

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Open shaping up for battle between first-timer and longstanding champ Smith
Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick will face some strong competition at the Golden Shears in Masterton this week.
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A Northland shearer is shaping up as a serious contender to end the Golden Shears Open championship-winning run of former Northland shearer Rowland Smith this week in Masterton.

Toa Henderson of Kaiwaka scored his third win in three weeks over Hawke’s Bay-based Smith when he won a six-man Pahiatua Shears Open final in the Fouhy family woolshed in the Mangaone Valley southwest of Pahiatua on Sunday.

The 32-year-old, who has never shorn in a Golden Shears Open final but who has now won seven finals in the 2022-2023 season, blasted through the 20 second-shear sheep in 15min 58.66sec and held on to the quality to beat runner-up Smith by 0.695pts, having beaten Smith by half a point in the Atia Sports Shears Open final on Waitangi Day. Five days later he won the Otago Shears final, when Smith was fourth.

Henderson also won Friday’s Taumarunui Shears Open final, which was missing both Smith and fellow multiple Golden Shears Open winner and fellow former World champion John Kirkpatrick, both working on Cyclone Gabrielle damage to their respective properties near Hastings.

The runner-up was 2102 World champion Gavin Mutch, from Scotland but farming in Hawke’s Bay,  and there was a remarkable effort from Otorohanga’s Digger Balme, backing up from a recent win at Te Puke to finish third – but still making it in his 37th season of Open-class shearing.

Smith in the meantime beat Henderson in the Apiti Sports Shears final on Saturday, and Kirkpatrick put in a startling effort for third the next day at Pahiatua.

King Country shearer Clay Harris continued a winning season with victories in the Taumarunui and Apiti Senior finals, but missed a place in the top six for the Pahiatua Senior final, which was won by Adam Gordon, of Masterton.

The Intermediate wins were shared by Taelor Tarrant, winning at his home Taumarunui show; young England shearer Callum Bosley claiming the Apiti title; and Balclutha’s Will Sinclair, triumphing at the Pahiatua Shears.

The Junior titles were also shared, with Jake Goldsbury of Waitotara winning at Taumarunui, and further South Island success in wins to Northern Southland shearers Cody Waihape and Emma Martin at Apiti and Pahiatua, respectively.

The Taumarunui Novice final was won by local Maaka Power, with the Apiti and Pahiatua finals both won by Taihape’s Trent Alabaster, now following in the footsteps of brother Reuben, a successful competitor through the grades and who in December set a World lambshearing record.

Champion woolhandler Joel Henare is on target to claim a possibly unprecedented clean sweep of major late-summer titles as he prepares for a bid to win a ninth consecutive Golden Shears Open title.

Henare won the Otago Shears’ New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year title for a 13th time on February 11, followed it a week later with victory in the Southern Shears Open final, and continued his winning ways at the Taumarunui Shears and the Apiti Shears.

He now faces the Wairarapa Pre-Shears on Wednesday at Riverside Farm, Mikimiki, before heading the 12km south to Masterton where the Golden Shears will be held from Thursday to Saturday, bouncing back from two years of cancellations amid the global pandemic.

He will be a warm favourite to win the Golden Shears final, heading into Shears week with nine wins behind him this season and a career tally of 132 Open final wins since his first in 2006.

Henare has, however, ruled himself out of a bid for a third World individual title, and is not contesting a selection series that ends this week with the naming of two woolhandlers in the Wools of New Zealand Shearing Sports New Zealand team for the 2023 World Championships in Edinburgh in June.

At the Taumarunui Shears he won by less than two points from former New Zealand Shears Open winner and now only occasional competitor Hanatia Tipene of Te Kuiti, with third place going to leading selection-series competitor Chelsea Collier.

The following day Henare, from Gisborne but now living in Motueka, had a comfortable win at Apiri, where second place went to 2010 World teams champion and former New Zealand teammate Keryn Herbert, who will this year represent Cook Islands at the World championships. Third and fourth placings went to Eketahuna sisters Emaraina Eruera and Marika Braddick.

Taumarunui sisters Vinniye and Te Anna Phillips dominated the weekend’s Senior finals, first and second respectively at their home show on Friday and reversing the result 24 hours later at Apiti.

In the Junior events, there was a home-show first win for Renee Tarrant, of Taumarunui, while at Apiti Tatijana Keefe, from Raupunga, scored her third win of the season.

The keenness for competition was highlighted at all three weekend competitions, in particular at the Apiti Shears, which had been threatened with cancellation because of repeated rain in the previous week.

It stopped just long enough for the sheep to dry and be shedded up on Friday. It was back on Saturday, but didn’t deter the 219 competitors, comprising 157 shearers and 62 woolhandlers.

There were 122 competitors at the shearing-only Pahiatua Shears.

Meanwhile the only weekend South Island event, the Kaikoura A & P Show, had one of its best entries in recent years, with 28 shearers competing across four grades.

Travers Baigent from Wakefield won the Open final, after winning at Murchison a week earlier. The Senior final was won by James Wilson of Winton, the Intermediate final provided a first win for Ike Nitsche from Feilding, and Rangiora shearer Lydia Thomson had her ninth win of the season in the Junior final, en route to her first North Island assignment the next day, when she was fourth at the Pahiatua Shears.

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