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New Zealand shearers queue to challenge shearing records

Doug Laing, Shearing Sports New Zealand, November 21, 2022

Record-breaker Floyde Neil being kept up to the mark by Koen Black, left, who had set a world record on October 27. Photo – Taesa Brown.

 

A WORLD record of 527 crossbred lambs shorn in eight hours set in Western Australia a week ago will be challenged within months by another New Zealand-born shearer.

WA-based shearer Floyde Neil from Taumarunui in New Zealand’s North Island set the new world near Kojonup on 13 November, but already faces a challenge in a wave of shearing record bids after the reopening of borders.

Former holder Aidan Copp, from Canterbury in NZ and who shore 524 near Wagga Wagga, New South Wales, in August 2019, will hunt Neil’s record down in the first of two record bids he’ll make a week apart in Tasmania early in the New Year.

He’ll make the crossbred lamb record attempt on 18 February, and on 25 February will shear the lambs’ mothers in an attempt on the crossbred ewe record of 497, set in April 2019 by Lou Brown, from Napier, but also based in Australia.

The attempts are among six more record bids listed with the World Sheep Shearing Records Society for the Summer, in a post-lockdowns flourish that has already seen three new marks set in the last four months.

Neil, who won the New Zealand Shears senior final in Te Kuiti in a busy 2014-2015 season that yielded five wins in 13 finals, and who has established a revered reputation in the shorter competition form of speed shearing in Australia, was overwhelmed with emotion after setting his lamb record. It was delayed three years by pandemic lockdowns and border closures and almost called off after a health scare three months earlier.

Among numerous family and friends present, including several who had travelled from New Zealand, was dad Roger Neil, still the joint holder of a four-stand nine-hour strong wool lamb record shorn near Turangi almost 15 years ago. A key player on the board was Dunedin-born Koen Black, who on 27 October shore an eight hour Merino lamb record of 606, also in West Australia.

But with all the support in the Slab Hut woolshed, including the sizeable work crew,  it was still a tough day, with Neil having to average about 54.85 seconds a lamb, caught, shorn and despatched, or 131.25 lambs for each two-hour run during the day.

He started on pace with 132 from 7am to the first break at 9am, but fell off the pace with 126 in the next run to lunch. The hour-long break did the job and he belted out 140 in the two hours afterwards. He steadied out with 129 in the last run of the day.

“I knew I had to do something special in the third run or else I’d have to kiss it goodbye,” he told media afterwards.

Floyde Neil, from Taumarunui, on his way to a new world solo eight-hour crossbred lamb record of 527 in West Australia on 13 November. Photo – Taesa Brown.

But there were still moments of doubt, with just an hour to go, and he said: “In that last run I was thinking, ‘I’m gonna go this whole day and I’m not going to get it. That’s what was going through my head — ‘I can’t believe I’m gonna go through all of this and I’m gonna let everyone down.”

“If it wasn’t for Koen and everyone else, my old man there and my young fella cheering me on, I probably would have given it in,” he said.

He also revealed the pre-record drama which almost resulted in the abandonment of the dream.

“About three months ago, I ended up having a brain bleed,” he said.

“I was training for this and giving it everything, and I thought I was just getting fatigued from training,” he said. “I was getting light-headed all the time and I thought I was just over-training, but I ended up passing out in my room and I was in hospital for a week.”

He decided he wasn’t going to do the record attempt, but changed his mind with a day to spare to meet an application deadline of 30 days before the chosen date, needed to give the records society time to arrange the judging panel for the event.

Neil is now planning another bid for April next year, targeting the nine hour Merino ewe record of 530 shorn by now Central Otago-based North Island shearer Stacey Te Huia near Dubbo, NSW, in February 2015. He is, however, yet to lodge the application.

Upcoming record bids:

20 December, 2022: Reuben Alabaster, of Taihape, will, at Te Pa Station, near Raetihi, attempt the eight hour strong wool lamb record of 744, shorn by Ivan Scott, of County Donegal, Ireland, at Opepe, near Taupo, on 9 January, 2012.

22 December, 2022: Jack Fagan, of Te Kuiti, will, at Puketiti Station, near Piopio, also attempt the eight hour strong wool lamb record currently held by Ivan Scott.

27 January, 2023: Amy Silcock, from Tiraumea, will, at Ross Na Clonagh, near Pahiatua, attempt the solo women’s eight-hour strong wool ewe record of 370, shorn by Marie Prebble, of England, at Trefrank Farm, Cornwall, England, on 25 August, 2022.

4 February, 2023: Sacha Bond, from Woodville and living in the King Country, will, at Fairlight Station, Southland, attempt the women’s eight-hour strong wool lamb record of 510, shorn by Pauline Bolay, of Canada, at Whitford Farms, Waikaretu, on 7 December, 2019.

18 February, 2023: Aidan Copp, from Christchurch but based in Gunning, NSW, will, at Gala Estate, Cranbrook, Tasmania, attempt to regain the solo eight-hour crossbred lamb record of 527, shorn by Floyde Neil, of Boyup Brook, West Australia, but from Taumarunui, near Kojonup, WA, on 13 November, 2022.

25 February, 2023: Aidan Copp will, at Cranbrook, Tasmania, attempt the solo eight-hour Merino ewe record of 497, shorn by Louis Brown, from Napier but based in Australia, near Kojonup, W.A., on 27 April, 2019.

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