Despite New Zealand’s sheep population being only half what it was 20 years ago, interest in the iconic Golden Shears competition in early March remains intense, with a world class field of competitors due to take the stage.
This year’s competition also marks the first time it has a major Open event shearing sponsor on board, with leading real estate company Bayleys underpinning what has become the highlight on the competitive international shearing calendar.
Golden Shears president Philip Morrison said having Bayleys on board was a milestone in the competition’s history, providing a sound footing for an event that involves a significant amount of organising and co-ordinating to deliver a standard its competitors deserve.
“Bayleys enjoys a high profile in the rural property market, and provides a very high standard of service, so we are absolutely rapt to have them on board to help keep the profile of the Golden Shears as high as it can be.”
The competition typically draws over 350 entrants, competing across all aspects of wool harvesting including handling, pressing and shearing. The Open event is regarded as the Wimbledon of international shearing competition. In the Open final six shearers each shear 20 second shorn sheep, aiming to beat the current world record of 15 minutes 27.4 seconds.
With its beginnings 57 years ago in Masterton when sheep reigned supreme in New Zealand agriculture, the competition has weathered the huge downturn in sheep numbers, continuing to draw the cream of shearing talent from around the world to try their hand and claim the ultimate shearing recognition.
“With its beginnings 57 years ago in Masterton, the competition continues to draw the cream of shearing talent from around the world to try and claim the ultimate recognition.“
Victory at the competition has been hard fought over the years with 24 champions over 57 years with legendary shearer Sir David Fagan dominating the awards for 11 successive years from 1990, ultimately claiming 16 Golden Shears wins and a knighthood before stepping down in 2016.
James Macpherson, Bayleys principal for East Coast, Wairarapa and Hawke’s Bay says the opportunity to sponsor such an iconic event could not be passed by, given its significance the importance of shearing to so many in New Zealand’s rural communities.
“There would be few people in rural New Zealand who have not experienced shearing, who are more than familiar with its smells and sights.
“Like real estate shearing is intensively competitive, and you only get paid for what you do, so the Golden Shears attracts a group of very hard working, independent athletes who are always determined to do their utmost to perform – it is a great fit for our company, with its links to rural New Zealand and the land.”
Philip Morrison said this year’s competition had its share of “dark horses” due to step up and give defending champion Rowland Smith a run. Smith made a clean sweep of all major events at last year’s event. He snatched victory from the jaws of defeat by pulling ahead of pace-making Taranaki based 2015 champion Gavin Mutch on the last two sheep.
“Rowland is looking good at present, he is winning everything he is entering at the moment.”
However stiff competition was coming from Nathan Stratford of Invercargill and there was the possibility of Matt Smith also chasing for contention. Current world champion Johnny Kirkpatrick is also an obvious contender.
“And of course there is also David Buick who is very determined with the ultimate aim to win the title. We also have a number of overseas entries trickling in. Shearers can be quite late when it comes to registering for this one.”
Philip says while sheep numbers have declined significantly in New Zealand, the fact so many sheep are second shorn has helped preserve solid demand for shearers and their skills.
“Usually those 70 million sheep we had were only shorn once. But today twice shorn is not unusual, and even lambs may be shorn twice before going to the works.”
He said the reputation of New Zealand for offering shearers large numbers of quality sheep to shear meant it was still a “must do” country on any professional shearer’s calendar.
“They rely upon us to learn and get work when in their off season, while we also look to them to help boost our numbers here, so there is a great level of international camaraderie in this industry,” he says.
Duncan Ross, Bayleys national country manager says the opportunity to sponsor such an iconic event was an honour for his company.
“Few competitions at any sporting level would have the recognition and respect that Golden Shears has earnt in over half a century of events.
“Few competitions at any sporting level would have the recognition and respect that Golden Shears has earnt in over half a century of events.”
“Bayleys see it as something New Zealanders both rural and urban can relate to with athletes who provide intense, enjoyable competition fuelled by their utmost commitment to their profession.”