A VICTORIAN blade shearing championship will feature at the Australian Sheep and Wool Show in Bendigo this weekend.
Sport Shearing Victoria president Tom Kelly said the interest in blade shearing has been rejuvenated in Victoria.
“We’ve got such a following of it that it has grown to the extend where it is viable to select the top four shearers for a final for two to represent Victoria at the national level.”
There will be an open blade event at the sheep show today as part of the Northern Shears shearing and wool handling program which continues on Saturday.
The four blade shearers expected to contest the Victorian open blade final are Ken French from Glenisla, Richie Foster from Apsley, Terry Rowbottom from Broadwater and Stuart Jennings from Edenhope. Mr French, with South Australian John Dalla, placed third in the teams event at the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in New Zealand in February. Mr Rowbottom also competed at the world championships.
“Ken French is our most accomplished blade shearer,” Mr Kelly said.
On Sunday, Northern Shears hosts Sports Shear Victoria State Championships across all categories of shearing and wool handling with 33 top shearers and roustabouts competing.
Mr Kelly said Victoria filled three of the six shearing-wool handling positions in the national team at the recent world titles with Ken French on the blades, Jason Wingfield in machine shearing and Sophie Huf in wool handling. They are all expected to compete at Bendigo.
“I expect them to be pretty hard to beat over the weekend, but in saying that, competition shearing and wool handling has been rejuvenated with the many avenues of training.
“We are seeing younger people feature in our state and national awards that we never used to see,” he said.
“It used to be the middle-aged experienced campaigners that made up the open finals, but with a bit more youthful exuberance with the right skillset, the competitions have got a bit more buzz around them.”
Mr Kelly said the shearing and wool handling competition at Bendigo this weekend will select the national team to go to the next Golden Shears in Masterton New Zealand in March next year.
But Bendigo is also the first step on the pathway for Victorian competitors to compete at the next world championships in France in 2019.
“They’ve got to qualify through 17 shows over the next 12 months in Victoria, compete at state level this time next year to get to the nationals in 2018, to ultimately get a spot in the worlds in France.”
The next national shearing and wool handling titles will be held at Bendigo in October this year.