3 Mar 2017

Watching the fleece fly

From Country Life, 9:31 pm on 3 March 2017

Country Life was there when the handpiece buzzed at the 17th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill.

It was the first time the event had been hosted in the South Island and competitors came from as far afield as Iceland and Switzerland.

Shearing Sports chairman and organising committee member Sir David Fagan says that with 32 counties represented, these world champs were the biggest yet.

The competitor skill level was wide-ranging.

"There are always going to be the top echelon who are going to be the favourites, but that's not what the event's really about. It's about the camaraderie and the clash of cultures but, at the same time, there is also a seriousness to the top level of competition."

Invercargill's ILT Stadium was converted into the world's largest shearing shed for the event. Shearing contractor and former New Zealand representative, Dion Morrell and 1994 world champion Alan McDonald handpicked the 4,500 Romney sheep that were shorn during the four-day competition.

The sheep came from several farms in Southland.

"On one farm we had 10,000 two-tooths to choose from, so first we cut down the mob on size and then focused on wool type. We wanted something a bit coarser that really combs in order to take the lottery out of each shearers shear," says Dion.

Hawkes Bay shearer John Kirkpatrick beat Scottish rival Gavin Mutch to claim his first world title and Joel Henare took out the All Nations Woolhandling final in front of a 4,000 people.

The World Championships takes place every two years, alternating locations between the northern and southern hemispheres. In 2019 it will be held in France.