AUSTRALIA’S peak shearing and wool handling competition body the Sports Shear Australia Association has allowed an expatriate New Zealand citizen’s inclusion to effectively bump Australian-born competitors from national open wool handling team contention.
SSAA allowed NZ-born open wool handler Janelle Hauiti to compete as part of the Western Australian team in national open wool handling events at the 2023 Australian championships in Jamestown in South Australia on 22 October.
Each state sends a team of wool handlers and shearers to the annual championships, with open competitors vying for a spot in the national team to compete at the next world titles.
SSAA president Dave Lawrence told Sheep Central he and the body’s executive committee of management (EXCOM) made up of state representatives knew that Ms Hauiti was not an Australian citizen before she was allowed to compete in the nationals. He has been told she had applied for Australian citizenship, but Sheep Central has not been able to confirm this.
Mr Lawrence maintained that there was nothing to stop Ms Hauiti competing in the Australian event.
“When they get to the nationals, they are only competing for their state, they’re not competing for Australia yet,” he said.
When it was pointed out that open wool handling competitors were also competing for a spot in the Australian team, Mr Lawrence said: “If you want to cherry pick that out of it then it will be that way.”
He didn’t accept that allowing Ms Hauiti to compete had bumped Australians from national team contention in gaining WA team selection and in progressing to the wool handling final at Jamestown.
“No, there is no issue about it.”
The incident sparked a protest from Queensland competitor Bruce Lines on 22 October. He missed out on a place in the national wool handling semi-finals after Ms Hauiti placed just ahead of him in points in heats. His protest was considered and rejected while the open wool handling events continued.
Mr Lines told Sheep Central that 17 wool handlers competed in the national wool handling open heats and nine were announced into the semi-finals and six into the final.
“The wool handler (Ms Hauiti) in question made the semi-final resulting in 10th-placed competitor (Bruce Lines) missing out on selection and the chance to compete in the final.
“Again the competitor in question made the final of the top six wool handlers resulting in the seventh place competitor (Tammy Mudford, New South Wales) to miss out on competing in the SSAA National Wool Handling Championship final.”
Ms Hauiti eventually placed fifth in the open wool handling final at Jamestown.
SSAA competition rules prior to the recent 2023 championships in Jamestown stated that to be eligible to represent Australia, a competitor must be a resident of Australia and must have Australian citizenship prior to the national championships. Competitors must provide proof of Australian citizenship if requested by a SSAA member committee, the disputes committee or national executive. The rules also stated that competitors in the national championships should be prepared to represent Australia in Australia and/or overseas, and, as a state or Australian team member, must agree to meet any reasonable sponsorship obligation or request.
However, the previous rules, according to the SSAA, did not preclude a non-citizen from some states from competing in the national championship open events or even becoming the national open champion, although still not being able to represent Australia.
The SSAA took a position in Ms Hauiti’s case that she did not need to be an Australian citizen to compete at the Jamestown nationals.
“No, she doesn’t (need to be an Australian citizen to compete),” Mr Lawrence said.
“The rules only stated that she had to be an Australian citizen to represent Australia.
“This is not the first time it has happened, I believe it has happened before,” he said.
“I wasn’t comfortable with it, but that’s the way the rules were written.”
He confirmed that the rules operating for the 2023 championships meant a non-Australian citizen could have become the national champion wool handling champion.
“That’s exactly as the rules stated, but it’s been changed.
“It’s now changed that they have got to be Australian citizens to compete at any of the nationals.”
Rule change made, but not implemented before open events started
Extraordinarily, at an SSAA EXCOM meeting on 20 October, the first day of the 2023 titles, the committee of state representatives made a change to the rules that to represent a state at a national championship competitors must be a resident of that state and an Australian citizen prior to the nationals. However, the committee also opted to not put the rule change into force until after the championships, on 23 October.
The SSAA EXCOM was told the WA SSA committee decided that its open competitors would only need to have applied for Australian citizenship to be in the state team. The Victorian, South Australian and New South Wales SSA branches already require open competitors to be Australian citizen to gain a state team berth.
Mr Lawrence said people had been “cherry picking” the SSA rules, and the rule change was made “so that there was no question about this ever again.”
Lines is seeking further advice
Mr Lines said he attended the 20 October meeting as a Queensland state delegate with team manager Michael Nancarrow, but they “could not see the need to change any rule that was mentioned and more so could not understand why he brought it to the meeting’s attention.”
Mr Lines said on Sunday before the national open wool handling events started, the chief wool handling judge Marion Kelly called all competitors together for a briefing.
“The briefing was to announce that the WA wool handler Janelle Hauiti was going to compete in the SSAA National Wool Handling Championships and that she will not be able to become an Australian representative due to not holding an Australian citizenship.
“As a competitor, I didn’t want to cause any problems as I assumed she would just compete in the heats as a WA competitor and would not be allowed to compete in the semi-finals or finals of the events,” Mr Lines said.
After lodging his protest, Mr Lines said he wasn’t given the right to address the disputes committee and continually asked why the events were proceeding while a dispute was in place.
“I assume they continued the events because they’d made a decision not to rule in favour of the protest and waited to speak to me after proceeding with events, so they couldn’t stop.
“It was very clear that other members and competitors were not happy that Janelle was allowed to compete in SSAA National Wool Handling Championships although powerless, as the SSAA national event organisers were not stopping the events,” he told Sheep Central.
“I believe this would not happen under any other Australian national sport where an Australian competitor and or team was being selected to represent Australia.”
Mr Lines said he has been involved with Sports Shear Australia for more than 25 years, including at state and national level for more than 20 years, was an Australian team member in 2004 and has been a Sports Shear event co-ordinator since 1997. In Queensland, he conducted the SSAA National Championships event at Roma in 2004 and chaired the 2005 World Golden Shears Championships at Toowoomba. He has been member of the SSA-QLD Association committee since 1997, serviong as chairman, secretary and treasurer, and has been vice-chairman, secretary and treasurer of the national body.
“Importantly, I believe “Sports Shear” is the greatest pathway for shearers and wool handlers to improve their industry skills, which also gives them a sporting element to represent their state and country.”
Mr Lawrence said Mr Lines’ dispute was considered in the correct manner and “there is no issue whatsoever with it.”
Mr Lines told Sheep Central he was gathering information and advice to potentially take the matter further.
Sheep Central was unable to contact Ms Hauiti.