AUSTRALIAN efforts to officially recognise shearing as a sport have been backed by the mayor of New South Wales city Dubbo as it prepares to host the 2019 National Shearing and Wool handling Championships.
Shearing and wool handling are not recognised as sports in Australia, unlike in New Zealand, where the wool harvesters are held in high regard.
Dubbo Regional Council mayor councillor Ben Shields said Australia’s shearers and wool handlers spend hours on end practising and working through the heat of the day.
“Shearing is such a demanding activity, which is why we’d love to see it listed as a national sport.”
“We hate being beaten by our rivals across the ditch, so I’m advocating for shearers and wool handlers to be recognised as sporting legends, and I’d love for other people to support me in this quest to have shearing listed as an official sport,” Clr Shields said.
The mayor said it’s one area in which Kiwis outdo the Aussies, with New Zealand shearers treated “like rock stars”, alongside the leading rugby and the All Black players.
If shearing was to be recognised as a national sport, it could be part of the Commonwealth Games, but it is one area that New Zealand is ahead of Australia.
The call is being made ahead of this week’s trans-Tasman test matches between New Zealand and Australian shearers and wool handlers during the three-day Australian national championships starting on Thursday in Dubbo.
Competitive shearer Wayne Hosie said shearers spend so much time working on their fitness, it’s about time they get the recognition they deserve.
“If you look at the top people that are competing, at a national or state or international level, these guys are all putting in as much work as what a lot of athletes would you know – time and effort, before, during, after work.
“They’re watching their health and it does take a lot of practice,” he said.
Sports Shear Australia secretary Stephanie Brooker-Jones said the organisation has met with Sports Australia commissioner Pat Farmer, Australian Wool Innovation’s Stephen Feighan and Nationals senator Bridget McKenzie in Canberra last year to discuss applying for sport status and is currently “filling in the gaps” of its application form.
“It was a very positive meeting, and we are filling in the application.
“Sports Shear Australia are working towards it and we’ve had a lot of industry support.”
The council is urging people to show their support for the calls to recognise shearing and wool handling as sports by attending the national championships from Thursday 28 November to Saturday 30 November at the Dubbo Showground.
New Zealand industry fought for recognition
Shearing Sports New Zealand media officer Doug Laing said the body and its promotion of shearing and wool handling has had official sport status for more than 25 years with the government sports agency now known as Sport New Zealand.
Sport New Zealand recognises about 70 sports, but Shearing Sports is New Zealand is one of a small number not currently funded, although it has received funding in the past, mainly based around World Championships.
Mr Laing said New Zealand Shearing Magazine editor Des Williams initiated shearing’s recognition in New Zealand, becoming the National Shearing and Woolhandling Committee’s first publicity officer in 1991. He also instigated the change to a more formal structure as Shearing Sports New Zealand and in January 1993 heading to Wellington gain acceptance from Chris Ineson, the chief executive officer of what was then the New Zealand Sports Foundation.
Mr Williams said Mr Ineson accepted that as a sport achieving first, second, and third placings at international events, Shearing Sports New Zealand warranted funding and later in the year it was successful with its first application.
Shearing Sports New Zealand teams are currently funded only by sponsorship and through the sport, including support from the independently-run competitions throughout the country.
The current squad of seven, including five from the South Island, contests three tests across the disciplines of machine shearing, blade shearing and wool handling in Dubbo on Friday.
The machine shearing team comprises Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, Paerata Abraham, of Masterton, and currently Canterbury-based Troy Pyper, from Invercargill, the rest of the party being made-up of the world champion pairings of blade shearers Allan Oldfield, of Geraldine, and Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, and wool handlers Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, and Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape.
Kiwis and Aussies have trans-Tasman scores to settle
Australia has held the upperhand in the machine shearing tests in recent years, including several wins at New Zealand leg the Golden Shears, but the New Zealanders have dominated the wool handling and blade shearing matches.
Australia’s machine shearing team of reigning and four-times Australian champion Daniel McIntyre, of Glenn Innes, NSW, Cobram shearer Jason Wingfield, Western Australian shearer Callum O’Brien. In March at Masterton, New Zealand, the trio defeated the Kiwi trans-Tasman team at the Golden Shears International Shearing and Woolhandling Championships.
Sports Shearing New Zealand media officer Doug Laing said two New Zealand trans-Tasman machine shearing representatives, Southland shearers Troy Pyper and Nathan Stratford each wrapped-up their preparation for Friday’s test match in Australia by winning separate competitions almost the length of the South Island apart on Saturday.
From Invercargill, but based in Amberley in North Canterbury, Pyper won the 125th Nelson A and P Show’s Open final at Richmond Park on the outskirts of Nelson, while Stratford won the West Otago A and P title about 900km away in Tapanui. They come together with Masterton shearer Paerata Abraham for a much tougher assignment in the international in Dubbo, NSW, trying to overcome the mixed bag of strong wool and fine wool to bounce back from New Zealand’s defeat at the Golden Shears in Masterton in March, Mr Laing said. The Kiwis will be out to stop Australia from scoring a 5th trans-Tasman match win in a row and a 15th in 18 tests since New Zealand last won one of the annual trans-Tasman tests in Australia in 2010, he said.
Trans-Tasman wool handling teams make changes
The Australian trans-Tasman wool handlers will be Rachael Hutchison from Gilgandra, NSW, and Mel Morris, from Cressy, Tasmania.
At the Golden Shears in March, Morris and Sophie Huf from Hawkesdale, Victoria, were defeated by the New Zealand wool handlers, world champion Joel Henare and Sheree Alabaster. This year at Dubbo, with Huf and Henare not competing, Hutchison and Morris will face New Zealand wool handlers Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, and Sheree Alabaster, of Taihape.
At Dubbo, Australian trans-Tasman blade shearers, South Australian John Dalla and Victorian Ken French, will be out to avenge their defeat at the Golden Shears at the blades of the Kiwis, Allan Oldfield, of Geraldine, and world champion Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie.
Get a taste of what it’s like in the day of a shearer and see championship updates on Dubbo Regional Council’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/DubboRegionalCouncil/videos/523559961829738/