Golden Shears great Rowland Smith achieved the goal he’d set all season when he won an eighth Open Shearing title in Masterton on Saturday night.
Capping three days of a fever-pitched return of Golden Shears after two years of covid-19 cancellations and taking a break from driving his tractor in the Hawke’s Bay cyclone recovery, Smith claimed victory by more than three points from runner-up Angus Moore from Marlborough, despite being only third off the board after a classic race for time honours on stand one, two, and three.
A time points deficit of over one point was nothing against the trademark quality of the two-metre giant, who always seemed in control of the six-man final.
Moore, in the Open final for the first time but having earlier in the night won the multi-breed PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit final for a third time, bolted into the lead on the second sheep and remained in front until the eighth when Masterton shearer Paerata Abraham hit the lead and, shearing at a consistent pace of a little over 40 seconds a sheep, stayed there till the end, finishing in 15 minutes 43.88 seconds.
It revived memories of Abraham’s only previous Golden Shears Open final when he cleared the 20 sheep in 15min 50.234sec in 2016.
Third place went to near-perennial beaten finalist Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford, despite being last to finish.
Fourth was first-time finalist Hemi Braddick of Eketahuna, Abraham was fifth and four-time champion Kirkpatrick was sixth.
Smith, a world champion in 2014 and 2017, earned the right to represent New Zealand at the 2023 Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Scotland in June, where among the toughest opposition will be his brother, expatriate Kiwi Matt Smith, representing England.
Joel Henare, from Gisborne but living with his three children in Motueka, justified his hot favouritism to win a ninth consecutive Golden Shears Open Woolhandling title by a wide margin from runner-up Keryn Herbert of Te Kuiti.
Henare was unavailable for World Championships selection, leaving four others to fight out a team selection final.
The two positions were claimed by Candi Hiri of Gore and Ngaio Hanson of Eketahuna, with less than a point covering the first three places, just cutting out Foonie Waihape [Alexandra] of the trip to Edinburgh.
Hanson’s performance was one of three that put Eketahuna and her family on the map. She is the sister of open shearing finalist Braddick and open woolhandling third-placegetter Ana Braddick.
Meanwhile, the New Zealand shearing team of Stratford, Stacy Te Huia and Leon Samuels staged an amazing comeback to win a trans-Tasman shearing test against Australian visitors Daniel McIntyre, Nathan Meaney and Sam Mackrill.
The black singlets had been soundly beaten in the season’s first test in Bendigo, Victoria, in November but sprung the surprises by being in charge over the six merinos each that comprised the first half of the contest, followed by the New Zealand breed full-wools and second-shears.
Among the lower-grade triumphs, 21-year-old Abby Curnow of Bendigo is the new Junior Woolhandling champion, becoming the first Australian to win a Golden Shears woolhandling title in the 38 years since the discipline was added to the Shears’ ribbon parade in 1985.
Her victory also made it a double of the junior titles for Australia, after 18-year-old Tyron Cochrane of Goodooga, NSW, won the Junior Shearing title on Friday, the first Australian to win a New Zealand Golden Shears title since John Allan’s Intermediate victory at the Golden Shears’ inception in 1961.
The Senior Woolhandling title was won by Rahera Kerr of Hauturu; the Senior Shearing final was won by Clay Harris of Piopio; and the Intermediate Shearing championship was won by Will Sinclair of Balclutha.
In the woolpressing, Masterton’s Goodger brothers again battled for the men’s singles title, with Jeremy scoring a 14th win, claiming the title back from brother Vinnie, winner four times in a row from 2017 to 2020.
The women’s title was won for the first time by Savannah King, of Eketahuna, beating eight-time champion Fiona Healy in the final.