From Masterton to the Maniototo.
The 50th NZ Shearing Circuit finals were held at the 2000ha Armidale Merino Stud at Gimmerburn on Saturday bringing the competition to Central Otago and the South Island for the first time.
There was some logic to the decision supplying Merino wethers to the competition normally shorn at the Golden Shears in Masterton for the past 15 years and with the Masterton event cancelled for the past two summers, the final of the PGG Wrightson Vetmed series was shifted.
Invercargill man Nathan Stratford took the spoils after going into the event as the TAB’s odds-on favourite in a season beset by Covid-19 cancellations and displacement.
The event was one of only three punters could bet on in New Zealand on Saturday, the others being Super Rugby Pacific games and the a women’s World Cup cricket match.
With crowd numbers restricted to under 100, and with everyone except shearers wearing masks, it was a shearing shed experience with a difference.
Stratford, the 2014 winner went into the finals ranked No1 among the 12 shearers from points across five qualifying rounds throughout the curtailed season, shearing his 18th final.
Stratford said the circuit was less gruelling this year but the feeling was the same friends became adversaries as soon as it was time to shear the first sheep.
“When you get on the [shearing] board they’re your enemies,” he said.
The finals started with two semi-final heats of six shearers shearing 16 sheep, four each in four categories wethers, half-breed long wool ewes, second shear ewes and lambs.
It was all six in the faster second heat that qualified for the final soon afterwards with the number in each category bumped up to five.
Masterton shearer Paerata Abraham was top qualifier for the final and posted the fastest time; 23min 14.8sec.
In the final Abraham was first off the board in 27min 22.1sec beating Stratford by .78sec, but the southerner had the best quality points, both on the board and in the pens, and won by 2.2165pts, from Parnassus shearer Hugh De Lacy, who also had better quality points.
Abraham was third, Jack Fagan, son of shearing great Sir David Fagan, of Te Kuiti fourth, Ringakaha Paewai, of Gore, was fifth, and sixth was Willy McSkimming, a grandson of Fred McSkimming and the first of the family to contest the final which incorporates the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown named in honour of his grandfather.
There were surprise eliminations in the semis, most notably defending champion Leon Samuels, of Invercargill, who stepped up to be Stratford’s pen-boy in the final.