Sheep and shearing have always been part of Alexandra teenager Charis Morrell’s life.
But it was only last year that the award-winning woolhandler felt that “everything clicked” for her in the job.
The judges of the New Zealand Corriedale woolhandling championships at the Canterbury Shears in Christchurch in November took notice, as the 16-year-old claimed her first senior title, to add to three junior titles on lambswool over the past two seasons.
Champions run in the family _ father Dion Morrell is a former shearing champion and world record holder, and sister Pagan Karauria is also a world champion woolhandler.
Her parents were shearing contractors before Charis was born, and her dad would carry her around the sheds when she was “really little” and explain things to her.
She started woolhandling at age 11 when she and her mother, Gabriela Schmidt-Morrell, who is from Switzerland, decided to enter a Swiss team in the World Championships when they were in New Zealand.
“We had to do some really quick training so I could do it.
“We really only had a year.”

When someone first started in the sheds, more experienced workers helped them learn the basics, she said, but she thought the easiest way to learn was to just get into the shed.
When her father signed her up to go to work, she was still nervous, but she said last year in the pre-lambing season, “it just clicked”.
“I knew I could keep up.”
Those nerves returned in her first senior championships.
“As a junior woolhandler, you look up to all the seniors and the opens and you watch them, and all of a sudden I was competing against them.”
She thought she would probably go into another career eventually, but for now she loved the work and especially the people she worked with.
It could be hard, she said, especially when it was the middle of the main shearing season and the temperature was 30degC.
Training for the championship was also hard to fit around school and studying for exams at Dunstan High School.
“We had a bit of an issue with the timing of the show so I was having to get up early with Dad before school,” she said.
“But really, it’s all year round we practise.”