TOP Australian and New Zealand shearers and wool handlers have flocked to Bendigo and Warrnambool for a big program of competition at the week’s end.
During the annual Bendigo Show, the 2017 Australian shearing and wool handling titles and other grade events will be held today and tomorrow, including trans-Tasman tests between the top shearers and wool handlers from both countries.
At Warrnambool on Saturday, shearing will return to the show in the Jim Robinson pavilion, renamed after the late founder of the Warrnambool Show’s Romney Shears event.
Sports Shear Victoria’s co-organiser of the Bendigo events, Paul McCormick, said it is the first time that the national titles has been held in the Victoria city. An estimated 105 shearers and 60 wool handlers will compete over the two days, shearing and handling the wool from about 1600 sheep.
The top three Australian shearers, top two wool handlers and top pair of blade shearers from the open title events will represent Australia in Masterton, New Zealand, next year in trans-Tasman tests.
Kiwis launch biggest trans-Tasman assault ever
Up to 12 of New Zealand’s best shearers and wool handlers are launching possibly the biggest-ever Kiwi assault on Australian shearing sports at the Bendigo and Warrnambool events.
A Shearing Sports New Zealand team of seven will compete in trans-Tasman tests machine and blade shearing tests and wool handling tests against Australia during the Australian national championships in Bendigo.
Another team of five shearers chosen from the New Zealand Shearing Championships in April will be competing separately 284km to the south in the Te Kuiti selection’s annual trans-Tasman challenge against Australia’s best at the Warrnambool Show.
The New Zealand team in Bendigo comprises Hawke’s Bay shearers Rowland Smith and John Kirkpatrick and Southlander Troy Pyper, who shear the battle of the machines today. NZ blade shearers Tony Dobbs and Phil Oldfield, and Gisborne wool handlers Joel Henare and Maryanne Baty contest their test matches on Saturday.
The NZ Shears team in Warrnambool comprises David Buick, of Pongaroa, Dion King, of Flaxmere, and Mark Grainger, who were third, fourth and fifth to Smith and Kirkpatrick in the NZ Championships open final, senior champion and now open-class shearer Darren Alexander, from Whangamomona but recently moved to Hawke’s Bay, and intermediate champion Sean Gouk, of Hamilton.
Also, Oldfield’s son, Allan Oldfield, and England-based Michael Churchhouse, from Dannevirke, are shearing in a series of blade shearing competitions in Australia. Oldfield has won eight competitions in a row in Australia, comprising five sports shearing finals and three speed shear events. Among them was the biggest of all, Oldfield junior’s world-biggest blade shearing first prize of $3000 at the Boort show on October 14, and his clipping of a sheep in 56.6 seconds to win the Mt Moriac speed shear.
For the NZ machine shearers and the wool handlers, the tests are the first legs of annual home-and-away series’ in which the second legs are at the Golden Shears in Masterton in March next year. Dobbs and Oldfield beat Australians John Dalla, of Warooka, South Australia, and Ken French, of Glenisla, Victoria, in the first of their tests in Waimate, NZ, on October 14.
Aussie team led by SA’s Shannon Warnest
Spearheaded by South Australian merino shearing legend and 2002 and 2005 World champion Shannon Warnest, Australia is favoured to win the machine shearing test, having not been beaten by New Zealand in Australia since 2010. Australia has won 17 of Warnest’s 27 consecutive tests since 2004, and has now won 31 of the 61 tests since annual home-and-away transtasman machine shearing tests were initiated in 1974.
Warnest is expected to have a particularly stern challenger in Smith who, despite comparative minimal experience on the fine wool Merinos, was the top individual in Masterton seven months ago and has been beaten only once in 26 individual show finals in New Zealand this year.
Warnest is expected to be joined in the test by seasoned internationals Jason Wingfield, of Cobram, Victoria, and Daniel McIntyre, of Glenn Innes, NSW. The Australian wool handling team is the world championships pair of Sophie Huf, of Hawkesdale, Victoria, and Melanie (Mel) Morris, of Cressy, Tasmania.
There have been 37 wool handling trans-Tasman tests since 1998, with New Zealand winning 28 and Australia 9. New Zealand has won all eight blade shearing tests since 2010.
Source: Doug Laing, Shearing Sports New Zealand.