The style of a champion . . . Rowland Smith. PHOTO/PETE NIKOLAISON
Bare results didn’t tell the whole story of the open shearing final at the Golden Shears on Saturday night.
Yes, hot favourite Rowland Smith from Maraekakaho won the title for the third successive time, and fifth time overall, but even though that was thoroughly predictable, the manner in which victory was achieved made it one of the most exciting finals in the history of this iconic event.
And more particularly for the large Wairarapa contingent in a good-sized crowd as it was our very own David Buick of Pongoroa who ensured that Smith had to fight every inch of the way to again capture the major prize.
Buick was magnificent, just as he had been in the semi-finals when he emerged as top qualifier for the blue ribbon competition.
Still in the process of recovering from a “flu bug which struck him mid-week, he engaged in a memorable battle with Smith for the distinction of being the first to complete their 20 sheep.
It was Smith who had the edge through the early stages but Buick was always close behind and there was a deafening roar in the War Memorial Stadium when he overtook Smith going into his last sheep and completed his 20 in a sizzling 16mins 29.6secs with Smith clocking 16mins 32secs.
Current world champion John Kirkpatrick of Napier was next to finish in 19mins 54secs, followed by ex-world champion Gavin Mutch (Whangamomona) and a couple of high-profile South Islanders Murray Henderson (Halcombe) and Nathan Stratford (Invercargill).
It was a now a matter of whether Buick had also matched Smith in terms of quality to become the first Wairarapa shearer ever to win the open final at Golden Shears, and for locals desperate to celebrate such an occasion, the wait between the end of the event and the announcement of the results seemed like an eternity.
Unfortunately for Buick however it was not to be, with Smith’s better standard of work eventually giving him an advantage of more than 2pts, but to simply say Buick had been brave in defeat would not do justice to the enormity of his performance
It truly was a staggering effort against an opponent whose name is now being mentioned in the same breath as the great Sir David Fagan, who just happened to win 16 Golden Shear open titles and was part of the audience wowed by the latest edition.
Buick, 39, was “absolutely delighted” with his second placing, his best in open competition at the Golden Shears, saying afterwards that while the body was still feeling the effects of his illness, the support in the crowd had given him a huge lift.
“It was unbelievable, it certainly helped me to keep going as quick as I could.
“There were a few aches and pains but when you hear noise like that you soon forget about them.
“It’s very humbling to have that sort of support.”
For Buick though, the thrill of having clocked fastest time was tempered by the knowledge that his points advantage over Smith, less than 1pt, for that effort might not be enough to give him the title.
“He (Smith) is so good on quality that you can never count him out, you always hope this might be your day but I wasn’t really surprised when the results were announced.”
Smith who also picked up the trophies for best quality points in the open final and best quality points in any final, was typically humble when addressing the crowd after his success.
“It’s a huge honour to win such an awesome final . . . it doesn’t get any harder than the Golden Shears,” he said.
There was no disgrace either for Kirkpatrick in placing third behind Smith and Buick.
He had earlier won the PGG Wrightson Circuit final as well as joining Smith and Stratford in the New Zealand team which lost their transtasman “test” against Australia, a huge testimony to his fitness and stamina.
The open woolhandling final also produced a predictable result with Gisborne’s Joel Henare securing that title for the sixth time but there was more to it than that as this was Henare’s 100th open class victory a feat marked by a haka performed by his supporters and the presentation of a cake.
Henare was “rapt” with the victory, noting that he had started his open class career at the age of just 15, “I didn’t even have a licence then.”
Runner-up to Henare was Pagan Karauria, formerly of Masterton but now of Alexandra, with Sheree Alabaster (Taihape) third and Maryanne Baty (Gisborne) fourth.
Henare had earlier combined with Baty to win the woolhandling “test” against the Aussies.