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Pressing business at the Golden Shears

Wool pressing judges Peter Cox, left, and Carl Cocks, right, with ‘Minister of wool pressing’ John Hodder. PHOTO/STEVE RENDLE

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It may be called the Golden Shears, but shearing is not the only discipline being celebrated at the Masterton War Memorial Stadium for the 59th edition of the event.

It was pretty clear what 70-year-old John Hodder from Tauherenikau was in charge of.

“Minister of Wool Pressing” his nametag boasted.

The event, run in singles and pairs, involves packing a wool bale with 160kg of wool – with points off for over or underweight bales.

As well as getting the weight right, health and safety is a major consideration.

Hodder said he had a soft spot for the portfolio he held for the three-day event.

“I’ve always had a genuine sympathy for wool pressers in the woolshed,” he said.

He said wool pressers had an intensely physical job and were always under the pump.

“If the shearing gang is fast, then the wool presser has to keep up.”

He said top wool pressers could press a bale in about six minutes.

“The main principle is to not go any further then you have to. They’ve worked out how many armfuls will fill the box and they won’t go any further then they have to – to eliminate wasted time.”

Judge Carl Cocks, a two-time singles winner and five-times doubles champion, said health and safety was a major consideration

“They can be a very dangerous machine,” he said of the presses.

In the shed, the place of a wool-presser was not an easy one, he said. “They’ve also got to make sure the pens are full, cut up the meat [for a feed] … and put the kettle on.”

Hodder’s involvement with the Shears goes back to 1965 when he entered as a junior shearer – and in a few short years was competing in the Open event. He’s still competing, but now in the Evergreens [veteran] category.

Hodder said when he started out there was a real hierarchy.

“Back then it was an all-male industry. You had the broomy, the fleeso, then the table hand. Then you went on to be a dagger, and then you learnt to shear.”

He said a good shearer had “the grace of a ballroom dancer” and watching has father shear sheep left a lasting impression.

“He was a farmer shearer after World War II and it stayed in my mind. I even made my own shearing box at woodwork in secondary school.”

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