A ROOKIE New Zealand trans-Tasman wool handling team has scored a stunning win over two vastly experienced Australian internationals in a test match in Australia on Saturday.
The test during the Australian National Shearing and Wool Handling Championships in Bendigo, Victoria was the first international appearance for NZ trans-Tasman wool handlers Angela Stevens, of Napier, and Cushla Abraham, of Masterton.
In a competition of six fleeces for each side, a combination of Merino and crossbred, the Kiwis clinched victory by almost six penalty points over Aroha Garvin, of York, West Australia, an expatriate Kiwi who first represented Australia in 1999, and Racheal Hutchison, of Gilgandra, New South Wales, who was competing in an Australian-record 11th trans-Tasman test.
The final penalty point scores were 70.75 points for the New Zealanders versus 76.51 points for the Australian pair. Although the New Zealanders finished after the Australians in their final clean up they were 10 points ahead of the Australians in total penalty points – 56.83 vs 66.83 — scoring 152 oddment and 121 board penalty points versus 85 and 273 for the Australians.
After the event, the New Zealand pair said their win was a relief and “a little bit unbelievable” for their first time in a trans-Tasman.
“Hopefully we can back it up in Masterton (at the Golden Shears),” Cushla said.
Cushla had handled Merino fleeces before, though they were big and bulky at Bendigo, but Andrea had no experience with them.
Before the event, the two wool handlers got some tips for New Zealand’s top wool handler Joel Henare and they said his advice helped, but it was “top secret.”
“It’s only New Zealand information,” Cushla said.
“He’s a master and he was more than willing to help us, which we were very thankful for.
“He’s an inspiration, he’s a great wool handler.”
The wool handling triumph was a particular moment for Stevens; it was her birthday and she was following in the footsteps of father John Kirkpatrick, the 2017 world champion shearer and four-times Golden Shears champion who shore a New Zealand record 19 trans-Tasman tests, including a win on debut, in West Australia in 2002.
As the team prepared to fly home, Abraham’s husband, Paerata, made the most of the crossing to win a $A10,000 first prize at a speed shear in Hamilton, Victoria, also on Saturday. Cushla said she and Stevens felt they had competed well as they finished the test, although tailing the Australians on time.
“But we knew it would be very hard to beat the Aussie girls, so we were expecting second place,” she said.
New Zealand has now won 35 of the 45 wool handling tests since wool handling was added to trans-Tasman competition in 1998, and Stevens and Abraham will represent New Zealand again in the next test at the Golden Shears in Masterton in March.