BY ROB POOLEY
When town meets country is usually attributed to ag and gala days where lambs and calves are paraded among a plethora of other pets, but Mangawhai got serious a fortnight ago by bringing a speed shearing competition to the Mangawhai Tavern.
Shearers are a breed apart, happy to work bent over for days at a time, plying the same sequence and number of blows with a finely-tuned handpiece in rolling the fleece from hundreds of sheep in a day. Speed-shearing is a finely-tuned version of that operation where shearers vie for supremacy denuding just one lamb against an opponent but also against the clock.
New Zealand is home to many of the best shearers in the world and some of those were in Mangawhai a fortnight ago to attend this event organised principally by local shearer Phil Wedd who also competed.
“I thought it might be interesting to bring something like this to town,” says Phil. “The guys at the Tavern were keen to put something on so I spread the word and it just evolved from there.”
Phil was thrilled with the enthusiasm and support from the shearers, gear companies and a number of other donations which swelled the prizemoney in excess of $10,000.
Normally shearers only get one shot on the board but because this was a first, they were given three rounds so it was more for the shearers to do and more interesting for the spectators.
“We were happy with the turnout of around 40 shearers from far and wide, including former world champion lamb shearing record holder and Golden Shears champion Dion King and multi-recordholder Digger Balme,” said Phil.
It was King from the Hawkes Bay who took out the open final and a cheque for $5,000 in a time of 19.42 seconds from Paerata Abraham (Masterton) and Digger Balme (Te Kuiti). The Senior final and $1,000 went to Rangipa Chase of Taumaranui, and the ‘local’ event was won by Kaiwaka’s Whetu Henderson.
Shearing icon David Fagan was also in attendance as a keen supporter. The lambs were provided by Dargaville shearer and farmer Neville Osborne.
Even for the uninitiated, once you see speed shearers in action it can be an exciting sport with winners often decided by just fractions of a second.
While the girls didn’t shear on this occasion, several of the well-known fleece-o’s were on hand to tidy up including Ruawai’s Hazel Wood of the She Shearing television series.
“We also expected several shearers from Australia,”says Phil “but a last minute bereavement meant they were unavailable, but they are keen to come in future.”
Speed shearers vie for supremacy against an opponent but also against the clock. (PHOTO/Josie Gritten Photgraphy)