By NICOLE SHARP
Handpieces and brooms are at the ready for the 55th annual New Zealand Merino Shearing and Woolhandling Championships (NZ Merino Shears) in Alexandra tomorrow and Saturday.
New Zealand Merino Shearing Society media spokesman Graeme Bell said there was a good turnout of competitors expected as usual for the champs, including some big, international and national shearing and woolhandling names.
The competition is one of the highlights of the shearing year and the only merino competition of its kind still held in New Zealand.
The competition will be held at Molyneux Stadium in Alexandra.
The shearing open finals and the Australia versus New Zealand test match will be held on October 1.
Mr Bell said shearers and woolhandlers would be coming from throughout New Zealand, and several top shearers and woolhandlers would arrive from Australia to compete.
Two Kiwi shearers, Nathan Stratford,Grant Smith,taking the stand only a week after competing in the Australian championships representing New Zealand.
Mr Bell said the annual invitational New Zealand versus Australia test would be held on Saturday night, the top qualifying open shearers from each country battling it out.
Tasmanian shearer Robert Gloverfor the event, returning for the championships more than 10 years since his last visit.
Champion blade shearer John Dalla,switching blades for combs as he sets up to compete this weekend.
The layout of this year’s championships will also see new catching pens as the south begins to prepare for the World Shearing Championships in Invercargill next year.
Mr Bell said the electronic timing systems, which would also be used at the world championships next year, will be used at the Merino Shears in a trial run for next year.
Merino Shears committee chairman Dion Morrell,Alexandra, said six-time Merino Shears open winner Damien Boyle,was attending to defend his title, and was bringing some friends with him.
“George Graham, of Ireland, is going to be doing a little bit of commentary.”
Mr Morrell said there would be an Australian versus Kiwi test tomorrow night.
There will be several international competitors, and a contingent from the North Island, many of whom are already working in the region in preparation for selection for the world championships to be held in Invercargill in February next year.
“There is a lot of prestige [in representing New Zealand and they want to wear the black singlet,” he said.
Sheep will be supplied by Earnscleugh Station and Northburn Station.
Admission for the shearing on Friday and Saturday during the day is free, while admission on Saturday evening is $10.
The 10 corporate tables for the event were already sold out, with proceeds being split between the Merino Shears and the Alexandra Netball Club.
Mr Bell said the organising committee was already looking forward to next year’s event, with hopes of creating an additional room at the stadium.