Southland shearer Leon Samuels broke a southern drought at the weekend, becoming the first South Island shearer to win either the New Zealand Shears or Golden Shears Open finals in three decades.
The win by 39-year-old Samuels on the last night of the three-day New Zealand Shears, was the first by a South Islander in the big Te Kuiti event since Edsel Forde, also from Southland, won the event in 1993.
Forde was also the last South Island shearer to win Masterton’s Golden Shears Open, in 1989.
The win was extra special, claiming the second New Zealand team machine-shearing berth at the World Shearing and Woolhandling championships in Scotland on June 22-25, when Samuels will join Hawke’s Bay shearer Rowland Smith, who won his place by winning the Golden Shears Open for an eighth time four weeks ago, and who was third the final, trying to match that tally in the Te Kuiti event.
Samuels was first finished the final, his 15min 6.05sec being one of the fastest times ever in a 20-sheep final in New Zealand, and claimed the title by 1.274 points from Northland speedster Toa Henderson, who finished second off the board in 15min 12.53sec, in his first New Zealand Shears, or Golden Shears, open final.
But it didn’t always go so well for Samuels, who tailed the first of six as Southern Hawke’s Bay farmer, Scotland international and former World and Golden Shears champion Gavin Mutch blasted his first three sheep out in 2min 6sec.
Henderson then took charge, until Samuels reined him in with four to go.
Smith was third to finish, taking 15min 31.53sec, but uncharacteristically incurred the most penalties on the shearing board.
Angela Stevens, of Napier, won the new Zealand Shears Open woolhandling final, in the latest of a series of family triumphs in Te Kuiti for the family of 2017 World Champion and three-times New Zealand Shears Open shearing champion John Kirkpatrick and wife Raylene.
Their 31-year-old daughter, and son-in-law, shearer and woolhandler Ricci Stevens, are expecting their fourth child in late June – the woolhandler triumphing on Saturday night despite being 27 weeks pregnant.
Angela Stevens and Cushla Abraham represented New Zealand in the summer’s home-and-away trans-Tasman series.
She’s no longer woolhandling and is now in early childhood education, at Busy Bees, Havelock North, and studying for diploma and aiming to qualify late this year.
With regular New Zealand Shears Open winners Joel Henare and Sheeree Alabaster not at the championships this year, it was a chance for a few others to dominate the stage, with Monica Potae of Milton the runner-up, Chelsea Collie of Hamilton came third, Sue Turner of Aria fourth, and fifth was Te Kuiti’s Hanatia Tipene, also now in a teaching career and the only other person apart from Henare and Alabaster, and now Stevens, to have won the title since 2008.
The Kirkpatrick family had yet another success when Bruce Grace, a nephew from Wairoa, won the Intermediate final. Sam Fletcher, from Mount Maunganui, and Kaivah Cooper of Napier finished second and third in the Novice final that was won on Friday by Trent Alabaster, of Taihape.
John Kirkpatrick, three-times winner of the Open final, won Saturday night’s Open Plate, and Grace was also acclaimed Shearing Sports New Zealand’s No 1-ranked shearer for the season.
King Country shearer Clay Harris, of Piopio, won the Senior shearing final to become the only shearer or woolhandler to win both a Golden Shears and a New Zealand Shears title this year.
It was a major championships for female shearers, among whom was Emma Martin, of Gore, who won the Junior shearing final on Friday, and on Saturday spearheaded an all-female Canterbury-Marlborough Development Circuit team to a comfortable win over three male counterparts from the King Country.
Martin, Lydia Thomson, of Rangiora, and South Island-based Robin Krause, from Germany, were the three-best performers in the Canterbury-Marlborough circuit, Thomson also becoming the No 1-ranked Junior shearer for the season with nine wins in 19 finals.
Woodville’s Laura Bradley, 25, a Senior shearer with a history of Junior and Intermediate success, won the Women’s shearing final on Friday, by just 0.105 points from Open-class shearer and former Golden Shears lower-grades shearing and woolhandling champion Sarah Hewson, of Blenheim, who was first to finish and shore the six sheep in 8min 28.61sec.
Meanwhile, another Alabaster from Taihape has found his way onto the New Zealand Shears honours board with victory in the Novice Shearing final.
Trent Alabaster, 17, who left Whanganui Collegiate last September to start a shearing career, is cousin of lambshearing record breaker and 2018 New Zealand Shears Junior champion Reuben Alabaster, nephew of former World woolhandling champion and multiple New Zealand Shears Open woolhandling champion Sheree Alabaster.
They all continue a competition shearing heritage starting with Sheree’s father, the late Ray Alabaster, who shore at the first Golden Shears in 1961 and multiple Golden Shears Open finals, without winning the big title.
In other features of the Shears, Leon Samuels and Rowland Smith completed a 3-0 Wools of New Zealand Shearing Series win over the Wales Development team of Gethin Lewis and Dylan Jones; and shearing legend Sir David Fagan, president of the New Zealand Shears society and of national body Shearing Sports New Zealand, returned triumphantly to the competition board to win a two-person Whanau relay with son and Open-class shearer Jack Fagan.
Sir David had retired from competition shearing in 2015 with more than 640 Open-class shearing titles to his name – more than three-times that of the next most successful.