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The young and the not so young

83-year-old Ian Stewart is back to once again shear at the Golden Shears, 60 years after first taking part in the inaugural Golden Shears in 1961. PHOTO/EMMA BROWN

EMMA BROWN
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Not only a record 70 novice shearers took the stage yesterday when the 60th Golden Shears began, but today some who took part in the inaugural Golden Shears in 1961 will once again shear a sheep on the hallowed stage.

Golden Shears president Sam Saunders said the number of novice entrants was off the chart.

“Last year was a record with 48, now there is 70 – it’s brilliant.”

One of the aims of the event was to encourage and bring new people into the industry, he said.

“Once shearing gets into your blood system, it’s there.”

Saunders said the environment behind the scenes had changed through the years, and would allow the novice shearers to learn as they competed.

“Nowadays, the guns [the top shearers] are more willing to share their knowledge.”

Equally, it was fantastic that some who had sheared in the first Golden Shears were returning, including Ian Harrison, who was sixth in the 1961 Open final, and Masterton shearer Ian Stewart.

Stewart was 23 when he competed in the first Golden Shears.

Now a Golden Shears life member he said the 60th event was a good reason to take part again.

“It’s my last one, I’m pretty sure,” he said with a laugh.

Gear and techniques have changed through the years, he said, but there has always been support and passion for the event to take place.

“At the first Golden Shears it would take about 27 minutes to shear 20 sheep.

“Now it takes them 16 minutes.”

Shearing was a tough sport, Stewart said.

“As a shearer you adapt to the strain shearing puts on your body.

“It is very competitive, even in the workplace.

“It is the only trade where you walk backwards as you do forward.”

Stewart said he likes to go and see the competition each year.

“I suppose it is a pastime for me.”

His only advice for the novice shearers taking part was, “just do what you normally do”.

“Don’t try and go faster than you should. Shear within yourself.”

Anticipation and excitement has been building for 20-year-old Jasmyn Cook of Masterton who was competing for the first time yesterday in the novice competition.

Cook said her keen interest in shearing was nurtured from a young age due to her uncle being a shearer.

However it was only two years ago at Taratahi Institute of Agriculture that she first had a go when a tutor gave her chances to “grab a sheep and get into it”.

She said she was looking forward to being able to be up there and show how much she had learnt in the past three months, thanks to a good tutor, and to be able to say “I have competed in the Golden Shears”.

She said she was very nervous but excited.

“I’m not very good in the spotlight and since studying at Taratahi it’s been one of my goals,” Cook said.

“I hope to do quite well.”

Cook said she would take her time and keep her sheep tidy.

“There is a lot of young people becoming interested in the industry and young people wanting to get out there and give it a go.”

She said she does not expect to shear fulltime but as a shepherd, to know how to shear a sheep is a very good skill to have.

It was announced on Tuesday that Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern would attend Golden Shears prize-giving on Saturday night.

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