TOP shearers and wool handlers from Australia and New Zealand are finalising their preparation for the Australian National Shearing and Wool Handling Championships in Bendigo this week.
The championships run from 24-26 November at the Bendigo showgrounds after being postponed a month because of the floods in the state.
The event will feature New Zealand’s first trans-Tasman machine shearing and wool handling tests since it won both at the Golden Shears in Masterton in 2020, just a fortnight before New Zealand went into COVID-19 lockdown.
Australia’s trans-Tasman shearers will be New South Wale’s Daniel McIntyre, South Australian Nathan Meaney and Sam Mackrill from Rochester, taking the place of Western Australian shearer Brendan Boyle who has other commitments.
The Australian wool handlers will be Rachael Hutchison from Gilgandra New South Wales and Aroha Garvin from Western Australia. John Dalla from South Australia and Ken French from Victoria will be Australia’s blade shearers. The Australian team manager is Peter Wingfield.
Australia’s shearers and wool handlers have been able to train on their local sheep and wool, and two shearers about to wear New Zealand’s silver fern for the first time — Stacey Te Huia and Leon Samuels — have been working in Australia for the past fortnight as part of their trans-Tasman preparation.
The pair hope to be part of New Zealand’s first shear machine-shearing test match win in Australia since 2010.
Te Huia from Alexandra and Samuels from Invercargill, are in the Wools Of New Zealand Shearing Sports New Zealand team for the resumption of machine and blades shearing tests on Friday. The trans-Tasman wool handling test will be held on Saturday.
Veteran international Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, will be making a New Zealand record-equalling 15th trans-Tasman test appearance when he joins Te Huia and Samuels in the machine shearing test. World champion NZ blade shearers Allan Oldfield from Geraldine, and Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, will shape up against Dalla and French. First-time New Zealand representatives Cushla Abraham, of Masterton, and Angela Stevens, of Napier, will contest the wool handling match.
Daniel McIntyre beat Te Huia, Stratford and Samuels in the New Zealand Merino Shears Open final in Central Otago town Alexandra on October 1, and has shorn in the winning side in 10 of his 13 trans-Tasman tests. His team mate Nathan Meaney, will contest his fifth test, and Sam Mackrill, from Victoria, is making his international debut.
Australia has won 36 of the 67 machine-shearing tests since the annual home-and-away matches started in 1974, dominating the series particularly since New Zealand last won in Australia at Hay, NSW, 12 years ago, at which time New Zealand had won 27 of the 48 matches to that time.
In the blades test, New Zealand defends an unbeaten record in 14 tests since the first in 2010, with Dobb having shorn in 10 of the matches, the last three with Oldfield.
Opponents Johnathon Dalla, a sheep stud farmer from South Australia, and Ken French, from Victoria, will be together as the Australian team for the 10th time in the tests. It will be Dalla’s 13th test.
NZ wool trans-Tasman wool handlers Cushla Abraham, of Masterton, and Angela Stevens, of Napier, will make their international debuts against a vastly experienced opposition in Hutchinson, who is contesting an Australian-record 11th trans-Tasman test, with Aroha Garvin, based in West Australia but from New Zealand, in her 8th trans-Tasman test. New Zealand has won 34 of the 44 wool handling tests since the first one in 1998.
Determined to make the most of their opportunity, Te Huia and Samuels each headed to Australia early to shear in New South Wales ahead of the tests. Te Huia has been mixing it with Poll Dorset rams and lambs and more recently Merinos around Bathurst, NSW. Samuels has been working with a mainly New Zealand crew out of Wagga Wagga, NSW.
Te Huia has shorn world tally records on both sides of the Tasman, and in strong wool and fine wool sheep, and said he’s “pretty proud” to be representing New Zealand, as a result of his second-placing, the best New Zealander, in the New Zealand Merino Shears final.
“But to be honest I was just trying to win the Alex show,” he said. “That was my goal this year.”
Thus, it adds needle and some hope of revenge in the meeting again with McIntyre, in a test in which the Australian dominance on the Merino component has been to the fore in recent years.
But Te Huia has shorn extensively in Australia, where he shore a world Merino ewes record of 530 in nine hours in 2015, and where the pre-tests shearing in New South Wales is an annual assignment.
Samuels, 39, had been a highly-rated shearer for many years, helping set a four-stand strong wool lamb shearing record in 2013 and then shearing a solo ewe record in 2017.
But, having also shorn a lot in Australia, he did not start figuring prominently in New Zealand competitions until he won the Otago Shears Open final in 2020, with just a single open final win previously, at the West Otago A and P Show in Tapanui in 2014.
Samuels was selected in the team as a result of winning the national shearing circuit final in 2021, and says it’s a dream of representing NZ that started when he realised he could make the team about three years ago, after he started making open finals.
“Making open finals was becoming more frequent for me and to win the odd one on the way…That sparked it all for me,” he says.
But for the global pandemic, Samuels would have been making his international debut last year.
“I wasn’t too sure I was going to get the chance, with all the cancellations and all,”” he says. “I hope to do my country proud.”
The NZ team is managed by Greg Stuart, of Alexandra and who will also be a shearing judge, while the wool handling judge is Gail Haitana, of Feilding.