Southland Triumph as Clean-Cut Stratford Beats Smith
Big Southland Triumph as Clean-Cut Stratford Beats Smith at Balclutha
The Otago Shears open shearing title is back in the South Island after a classic quality performance from
Southland shearer Nathan Stratford to regain the title in Balclutha on Saturday(February 13).
Stratford, 41, finished about a minute behind World champion Rowland Smith, 29, but did enough with his quality to overhaul the champion Hawke’s Bay shearer who was the hot-favourite, after winning all eight finals he had shorn earlier in the summer.
It was an important confidence-booster for Stratford, with the win also attracting a maximum 12 pts in the third round of a series to select two machine shearers to represent New Zealand at the next World championships, in Stratford’s home-town of Invercargill on February 9-11 next year.
Smith won the two opening rounds of the selection series last month in Southland, but Stratford had been comfortably positioned with top-three finishes in both events, and is now in second place.
The arduous series ends with a final at the Canterbury Show in November, after which Stratford hopes to be named the first South Island machine shearer to represent New Zealand at the World championships since 2005.
Stratford won the Otago Shears title in 2013, but was third the following year and runner-up last year to the now “Sir” David Fagan.
Smith was runner-up on Saturday, third was Feilding shearer and 2015 Golden Shears runner-up Aaron Haynes, fourth was Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick, who won the Otago title five times between 2005 and 2011, and fifth was Southland veteran Darin Forde.
A multiple New Zealand transtasman series and UK tour representative, Stratford said that as he switched-off at the end of the final, he didn’t think he’d done enough to pull-back the time-points deficit, and the podium announcement soon afterwards was a surprise.
“They’re such good shearers,” he said. “And Rowly is the World champion.”
But he said the sheep were possibly the best-combing he had seen and were a “real credit” to the farmer who had provided the sheep for the two days of competition.
In other features of the championships, the New Zealand shearing team of Dion King, now based in Wairarapa, and Tony Coster, of Rakaia, beat the Welsh team of Richard Jones and Gwion Evans by 7pts to take a 2-0 lead in the five-match CP Wool Shearing Series, and champion woolhandler Joel Henare, from Gisborne but based in Otago, scored a double by winning the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year title and the South Island Woolhandling Circuit Open final.
He successfully defended the Woolhandler of the Year title, his seventh win in the event since his first as a 15-year-old in 2008. His 2009 double was the last time anyone won both events in the same year.