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Seven-time champ a hot favourite


Seven-time champion Rowland Smith is the hottest of favourites to make it Open title number eight when the “Wimbledon of Shearing”, the Golden Shears, returns today after a two-year hiatus.

Smith is second only in Open championship victories to the legendary Sir David Fagan, who won 16 titles between 1986 and 2009 [12 straight from 1990-2001].

The Hawke’s Bay shearer’s seven titles have come in the past eight Golden Shears, including the last five consecutively between 2016 to 2020, before the cancellation of the 2021 and 2022 events because of the covid-19 pandemic.

The TAB has installed Smith as an almost certainty at $1.30 to lift the trophy for an eighth time.

However, he faces a stern challenge from emerging hopeful Toa Henderson of Kaiwaka, Northland, the winner of seven open titles in the current season, involving 57 shows throughout New Zealand. The TAB has Henderson second favourite at $3.20.

Four-time winner John Kirkpatrick and 2015 champion Gavin Mutch are also among those expected to be on the stands for the final.

Local hopes will rest with the in-form David Gordon. The Masterton shearer has shorn in 11 open finals this season and is knocking at the door of the big guns.

Gordon won the Novice final at the 50th anniversary Golden Shears in 2010 and is believed to be the only shearer who has won titles around the country in all five grades –novice, junior, intermediate, senior and open.

Gordon is a $41 outsider, the same odds as brother-in-law Paerata Abraham and Hemi Braddick of Eketahuna.

The trio, along with another Masterton shearer, Matene Mason, will line up in the PGG Wrightson Vetmed national shearing circuit final.

The series comprised five qualifying rounds on various wool types, and the top 12 shearers compete for the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown and a place in the New Zealand team for a trans-Tasman series.

Gordon is the third top qualifier, with Abraham sixth, Braddick 11th and Mason 12th.

In the woolhandling Motueka-based Joel Henare, from Gisborne, is the shortest of favourites, at the prohibitive odds of $1.18. to win a ninth consecutive Golden Shears Open title. With 132 career titles, Henare is estimated to have twice the number of wins accrued by the other 33 entered in the event.

Missing though is a former world champion and multiple New Zealand shears open woolhandling champion Sheree Alabaster, a full-time schoolteacher this week with her Taihape pupils on a school camp, and not at the “Shears” for the first time since “when I was a little girl watching my dad”.

New Zealand will take on Australia in woolhandling and shearing test matches during the Golden Shears.

Competition gets underway this morning with woolpressing, and novice and junior events.

More than 370 shearers, woolhandlers and woolpressers are expected in Masterton for the three days of competition. They include more than 80 from overseas – at least 38 from Britain and 37 from Australia.

Golden Shears International Shearing Championship Society president and Wairarapa farmer Sam Saunders said that reflects the reuniting of the global shearing fraternity after the border closures of the pandemic and what were tough times with a shortage of shearers to clear the New Zealand fleece and the mana of the “Shears” worldwide.

The Golden Shears will also debut some hopefully future stars in a Teddy Bear Shear, where children pretend-shear using teddies as the sheep, handpieces or such things as wooden blocks in their hands, and mock-up shearing gear including singlets, trou, moccasins and bow-yangs, re-enacting the learning years of children from shearing families in the woolshed over many decades.

Saunders felt the Teddy Bear Shear and other wool activities during the week are one way of “bringing back” some of the things lost to the wool industry over the years.

“The feeling I am getting is that people have been missing the Shears,” Saunders said.

“It just shows people enjoy the company and the feel of it all, and I just can’t wait. It’s good to be back.”

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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