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Shearing their way to glory

Shearing their way to glory
The blade shearing finalists (from left): Tony Dobbs (winner), Allen Gemmell, Mike McConnell, Allan Oldfield and Phil Oldfield.

Coming off a farm, I’ve seen thousands of sheep shorn over my lifetime but never taken much notice of shearing competitions. That was until the weekend just gone.
I was at the Ashburton A&P and happened across the shearing pavilion.
I’ll give it half an hour, I thought. There were a heap of things I had to cover in the interim. But three hours later I was still there, completely riveted by the competition.
First up was the blade shearing –  two heats and then the finals. There were some heavyweights: Tony Dobbs and Allan Oldfield who had represented New Zealand at the World Champs many times – I knew this. Also there was Allan’s son Phil Oldfield who had levered off his father and become the world champ in 2019, the last time the World Champs were held, pre-Covid.
The final was under way and the winner on time was Phil Oldfield with Tony Dobbs in fourth place. This is when I learnt something new courtesy of judge, Stuart Mangin.
“It’s not all judged on speed,” he said.
“There are judges on the board (one for each competitor) who look for “double cuts” where the shearer has gone twice over a piece of the sheep’s wool (this isn’t good).
“Then once the sheep is shorn, other judges out the back will inspect for nicks and ridges in the sheep’s coat.
“So it is the shearer that accumulates the least points that is the winner,” Mangin said.
In this case, it was Tony Dobbs, whom I kid you not must be in his fifties. So it seems skill can count, but not always youth.
Next up was the junior final and I was so surprised to see that the breakdown was three women and two guys. Lydia Thompson completely blitzed the field! She had also won the weekend before at the Rangiora show.
Lydia said; “Women’s shearing has become a big deal this last couple of years – like women’s rugby.”
Then it was on to the big guns in the Open Category. There was definitely a ramp-up here – they were faster, and cleaner.
The speed was astounding, shearing a sheep in a minute.
The favourite was Nathan Stratfield, former world champion, and for such a slight guy I was amazed he could manage such big burly sheep.
But the secret seemed to be staying relaxed (and the sheep will be relaxed), smooth and fast; that’s my take on it anyway.
So no surprise that Nathan was the winner on the day.
The open competitors plus the blade shearers and wool handlers are all competing for a place in the New Zealand team for the 2023 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Scotland.
It will be a NZ team of six. So it’s a matter of the competitors getting as many competitions in as possible, and accumulating as many qualifying points as they can in the time left.

  • By Pat Deavoll