An attempt to stop Australia claiming New Zealand’s top finewool shearing title and the selection of a shearer and woolhandler for next month’s transtasman tests will be features of the New Zealand Merino Shears in Alexandra on Friday and Saturday.
The Open shearing final was last year won by Australian national team member and World Championships representative Daniel McIntyre, following eight wins in 10 years by West Australia gun Damian Boyle up to 2019.
The best finishing New Zealand shearer in this year’s event will win a place in the New Zealand team for the first leg of the 2023-2024 home-and-away transtasman shearing series, at the Australian National Championships in Jamestown. South Australia, on October 20.
The door is open for a new national representative with leading finewool contenders Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, and Angus Moore, of Ward, already selected as the other two machine shearers based on results from last season.
Long-serving national representative Stratford was third in last season’s Golden Shears Open final, in which Moore was runner-up to Hawke’s Bay shearer Rowland Smith, who is not available for the test, and Moore won his place of the PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit.
The winner of the Open woolhandling final will also be in the team, joining defending merino champion Cushla Abraham, of Masterton, who has already claimed her place in this season’s team as winner of the North Island Circuit final last March.
More than 100 competitors compete in Alexandra, with the major finewool titles available in Open and Senior shearing and Open, Senior and Junior woolhandling in what is the first of 60 shows on the Shearing Sports New Zealand calendar for a season which end at the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti on April 4-6.
More than 40 will compete in the Open shearing, the heats of which constitute the first round of this season’s PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit, effectively the national all-breeds championship.
Among competitors across the grades will be indigenous trainees from Australia,, led by Australia-based New Zealander and former national representative, World lambshearing record-breaker, NZ Merino Shears Open winner and national circuit champion Sam Te Whata, who is also considering shearing at the event again, at the age of 68.
He heads up a shearing training programme based in Dubbo, NSW, and led similar trips last year to both the NZ Merino Shears and the Golden Shears in Masterton, said to have been the first overseas venture by Australian indigenous shearing representatives.
Among those officiating at the championships will be New Zealand team manager Mark Barrowcliffe, of King Country township Pio Pio and who weill be taking in a rare chance to judge finewool shearing before officiating during the trip to Australia.
He has qualified as a finewool shearing judge, and says the major difference from judging crossbred shearing in the North Island is the increased range of penalties with the wrinkly skin oif the merinos, particularly on the neck.
“They’re a good challenge,” he said. “Judging the as big a challenge as shearing them.”
Among others officiating will be South Island woolhandling judge Heidi Middleton, who will also be officiating in Australia.