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Shears delivers in droves

The buzz goes well beyond the shears, with the War Memorial Stadium positively electrified during the third and final day of the Golden Shears.

It was a triumphant return for the ‘Wimbledon of shearing’, with Saturday night’s crowd thrumming as it watched the elite battle it out on the shears, grading tables, and pressers in the 2023 finals.

The packed stadium – featuring flowing mullets and gumboots galore – reached fever-pitch during the New Zealand-Australia test, with the home team coming from behind to clinch the win.

Australian Daniel McIntyre was quickest out the gate, leading the charge until sheep number seven when New Zealand’s Stacey Te Huia leapt ahead, followed by teammate Leon Samuels, who after struggling initially, stormed into first place.

The crowd’s energy could only be eclipsed by what followed – Masterton local Paerata Abraham’s blistering performance in the open shearing final.

“He is absolutely hissing,” the commenter shouted above a wild crowd.

Although Rowland Smith ultimately secured the title, Abraham’s speed on the shears saw the stadium erupt as he dispatched the 20th and final sheep.

But the blood, sweat, and shears on stage are only the tip of the iceberg, with an army of volunteers toiling before, during, and after to deliver the exhaustive three-day programme.

Judge and Golden Shears stalwart Ken Macpherson said the Shears demanded a huge amount of effort behind the scenes.

As the sheep logistics point person, his day began at 6am on Saturday, marking the sheep for the open shearing final.

“I mark them all on the nose with a different colour.

“I look at their body conformation, their size, and their height. You want to make sure they’re even across the pens.

For the past 25 years, Macpherson has been coordinating the sheep for Shears, and said it takes about 10,000 sheep to select the 3500 needed for the competition.

Most of the sheep were sourced from seven local farms, but some, such as the merinos, were shipped from the South Island, he said.

“There’s so much planning, and so much time that goes into it.”

But it was worth it, he said.

“I’m only doing it for the shearers.

“The more even you can get the sheep, the fairer it is for the shearers. It gives everybody a chance.”

That attitude extended beyond selecting and delivering the sheep, with Macpherson staunch about warming the sheep in the competition pen before anyone picks up a razor.

“I stopped the whole show once, and said, ‘no bastard is shearing a sheep for another 10 minutes’.

“The grease gets hard on their skin if they’re cold. I want to make sure that when they go out there, it’s right.”

Also helping the sheep ‘go out there’ during Shears this year were 40 students from Wairarapa College.

Head of agriculture and horticulture Dan Grace said the team had put in the mahi behind the scenes, delivering the sheep in the order prescribed by the shearers.

“They’re loving it. They’ve been working hard. They’ve got to for the shearers; it’s a very close relationship.”

Wairarapa College students Piper, 14 and Murphy 16, said it was their first year helping the competing shearers and said they would return.

“It was pretty cool. My favourite bit was probably the [open shearing] final,” Murphy said.

Piper agreed but said it was probably the most challenging of the three days.

“There were heaps of sheep in the pen. But it was so fun, I loved it.”

Mary Argue
Mary Argue
Mary Argue is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with an interest in justice and the region’s emergency services, regularly covering Masterton District Court, Fire and Emergency and Police.

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