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Excitement Surrounds Start Of Shearing Champs

30 March 2006

Excitement Surrounds Start Of Shearing Champs

The 22nd New Zealand Shearing Championships get underway in Te Kuiti today, with new shearing events and enhancements to the Sheep Run to make it more entertaining.

Championships President Jim Gibbs says the event is the largest in the northern King Country region attracting hundreds of shearers and woolhandlers, as well as their supporters, and thousands of spectators.

Special guests this year include New Zealand Idol judge and entertainer Frankie Stevens and National MPs, Leader Dr Don Brash and local MP Shane Ardern.

“The highlight of the three-day competition is the open final, where defending champion and home town hero David Fagan will face stiff competition to add to his record 15 titles,” Mr Gibbs says.

Napier shearer Dion King is the favourite to win this year’s title.

“They will be shearing their 20 sheep in about 15 minutes, possibly less this year. It’s fast, furious action.”

Mr Gibbs says he was tempted to enter the new Masters Event for shearers aged 50 and over, which requires the entrants to first compete in the heats of the open title competition.

“When I saw how fast the open shearers go, I decided I wasn’t going to get up beside them!”

About 2000 Romney Finn cross sheep will run down Te Kuiti’s main street, Rora Street, in the 3rd annual New Zealand Shearing Championships Running of the Sheep where the crowd acts as a natural barrier.

As well as competitions to guess how many sheep are running down the street and the number of jockeys being carried by some of the sheep, organisers are placing an obstacle in the middle of the street for the sheep to run around and/or over.

“We hope the obstacle will slow the sheep down, so people can get up close to the sheep – although it won’t be long enough for any clever person to count them.

“It may also cause the sheep to run somewhere they aren’t meant to, we’ll see on the day how it works!”

Mr Gibbs says the highlight in today’s shearing and woolhandling competition action is the speed shear tonight, where the shearers race to shear one sheep the fastest – in about 20 seconds.

On Friday (March 31), there is the final of the North Island Shearer of the Year, as well as a contractors’ relay and an Inter-Island Shearing and Woolhandling challenge.

As well as the Sheep Run at 2pm on Saturday, the feature events on the programme include the open final, the Masters competition, open woolhandling final and a NZ Shears versus Warnambool challenge.

The shearing and woolhandling events are all being held in the Waitomo Cultural and Arts Centre.


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