Sheree and young cousin Reuben make an Alabaster double

Doug Laing, Shearing Sports New Zealand., April 9, 2018

2018 New Zealand open wool handling champion, Sheree Alabaster, left, with cousin Reuben Alabaster, who 14 won the junior shearing championship final. Photo – Doug Laing SSNZ

NEW Zealand school teacher mother-of-one and former world champion Sheree Alabaster won the NZ open wool handling title for an eighth time in Te Kuiti on Saturday night.

The 43-year-old from Taihape, who earlier this year claimed her 50th win in open finals, dominated the blend, oddment and fleece components of a five-handler final of six second-shear fleeces each in the Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre, beating runner-up Logan Kamura, of Marton, by nine points.

Third, almost five points further back after dominating on time and board work, was reigning world champion Joel Henare, who after winning a 100th open title in claiming his sixth-consecutive Golden Shears open title in Masterton last month, was the warm TAB favourite going for his fourth NZ open win in a row.

The 26-year-old Henare did enough, however; to end the season the No 1 ranked open wool handler nationwide for a seventh time, in an outcome decided in last night’s final, in which nearest challenger Pagan Karauria, of Alexandra, was fifth.

In contrast to the full-wool and second-shears Golden Shears contest, where Henare lead the field at all times, he was never in front at Te Kuiti, where the top qualifier in the heats was local hope and eventual fourth placegetter Keryn Herbert, with Rimene heading the quarter finalists, and Kamura top qualifier into the final.

Alabaster explained her repeated success in Te Kuiti, in contrast to being yet to win a Golden Shears open, by saying: “I love it here. I love the atmosphere.”

Making it more “amazing” was that she was able to put the family name on the 2018 honours board for a second time, after 14-year-old cousin Reuben Alabaster’s junior shearing final win on Thursday.

Alabaster’s mother, Libby, is a wool handling judge, and late-father Ray Alabaster competed at the first Golden Shears as a teenager in 1961 and was runner-up in two of his nine Golden Shears open shearing finals.

Alabaster, who previously won the national title three times consecutively in 2004-2006, and in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014, has had one of her better seasons, with seven wins.

They included the North Island Circuit final during the Golden Shears, which claimed her place in the New Zealand trans-Tasman series for next season with Henare, who retained his place by winning the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year final in Balclutha in February.

Young cousin Reuben wins junior shearing final

Reuben Alabaster shearing his way to the NZ junior championship title in Te Kuiti. Photo – Doug Laing SSNZ

Reuben Alabaster became one of the youngest shearers to claim a major shearing title when he won the junior final at the NZ Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Te Kuiti last Thursday.

Reuben Alabaster, 14, dominated all-round to win a six-shearer final by 2.225 points from runner-up and 20-year-old Golden Shears junior champion Brook Hamerton, from Ruawai, in Northland, in a reversal of their result at the Golden Shears in Masterton five weeks ago.

Alabaster was first in last Thursday’s showdown in the Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre, taking 8 minutes 27.34 seconds for the five second-shear sheep, beating Hamerton by 20 seconds. The youngster, a pupil at the years 1-13 Taihape Area School, also had the best job points on the shearing board and quality points in the pens out back.

Third was Keith Swann, of Wairoa, and fourth was Pahiatua shearer Jonathan Painter, who despite being unable to claim either the Golden Shears or national championships titles still finished as Shearing Sports New Zealand’s No 1-ranked Junior shearer for the season, based on points for placings in his 18 finals, which produced 7 wins.

Rakai Barrett winning his first shearing final, and claiming the New Zealand championship’s novice title in Te Kuiti. Photo – Doug Laing SSNZ.

On Thursday, young Taumarunui shearer Rakai Barrett marked his first-ever shearing final with a commanding novice title win. He shore his two sheep in 4 minutes 31.49 seconds, more than 1 minute 20 seconds quicker than second-man-off and eventual runner-up Logan Kamura, of Marton.

Also claiming best quality points in the pen judging, Barrett beat Kamura by 3.68 points, with six more points to third placegetter Heath Barnsdall, of Pio Pio, who had already won four novice finals in the last two months, at Aria, Kumeu, Waitomo and at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland last Saturday.

Fifth in the event last year and winner of six of 21 junior finals, Alabaster  has surpassed the dreams of dad Ricky, who despite concentrating mainly on farming and doing only one season of fulltime shearing, shore in four NZ championships finals across the Junior, Intermediate and Senior grades.

There are possibly more on the Alabaster production line, with Reuben being the second-eldest of five children of Ricky and wife Evelyn. The others are all girls.

“Heaps of rousies,” joked Ricky, who farms 18,000 ewes on four blocks in the Taihape area, two of them leased.

“We need more shearers.”

His wife didn’t shear or work in the woolsheds, and eldest daughter Lily, 16, has started to learn, but little is known yet of the farm-life aspirations of Fleur, 10, Marselene, 5, and Clara, 4. All, except Clara, of course, are at school, although Reuben has his future slowly mapping out with a handpiece, rather than textbooks.

He turns 15 in three weeks’ time and goes up to intermediate class next season. He has done only half-a-day’s shearing in the last month and reckons he’ll do more and more around Taihape over the next couple of years before possibly starting to hit the road to shear further afield.

“I don’t like school much,” he said.

The youngest major show shearing title winners are thought to have been David Gordon, of Masterton, and Josh Balme, of Te Kuiti, who were each 13 when they won the Golden Shears Novice title in 2010 and 2012 respectively.

Stevens’ unique shearing-wool handling double at Te Kuiti

Napier shearer Ricci Stevens on Saturday night in Te Kuiti adding the NZ Senior shearing title to the wool handling title he won two days earlier. Photo – Doug Laing SSNZ

Napier shearer Ricci Stevens, 26, completed a unique double of doubles at the NZ championships when he won the senior title final on Saturday night, after winning the senior wool handling title on Thursday.

No other competitor has won New Zealand championships titles in both shearing and wool handling.

The runner-up was King Country-based Catherine Mullooly, who as a junior on the same stage in 2014 became the first woman to be named top-ranked competitor in any grade of shearing. She was just 1.145 points from becoming the first female senior winner since the championships were first held as the King Country Shears in 1985.

Third place went to South Island-based Luis Pincol, from Chile, just 2.211 points from scoring the biggest-ever win by a shearer from South America.

The shape of the senior final changed dramatically when top-ranked Tegwyn Bradley, of Woodville, winner of 14 other finals during the season including the Golden Shears, was eliminated in the semi-finals on Saturday afternoon.

Son-in-law of 2017 world champion and his employer John Kirkpatrick, Stevens made his intentions clear, more than 20 seconds clear of nearest challengers Mullooly and Pincol through the halfway stage. He finished his 12 sheep in 13 minutes 58.38 seconds, half-a-minute clear of eventual second-man off and Gore-based fourth placegetter Lionel Taumata, from Taumarunui.

Mullooly was third to finish, in 13 minutes 31.28 seconds, and was by more than a point the best shearer in the board judging, but suffered in the judging in the pens afterwards.

The 2017 intermediate champion, Masterton-based Sean Gouk was fifth, and sixth was Whakapunaki (Naki) Maraki, of Flaxmere, who on Thursday was fourth in the junior wool handling final won by partner Ngaira Puha.


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