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Elite Training For Golden Shears Hopefuls

Some of New Zealand’s top shearers and woolhandlers will be heading back to school as private wool industry trainer Elite puts even the best through a time-honoured tradition of big-time prep-work ahead of this year’s Golden Shears.

The high-performance pre-shears course on March 1-2 builds on a history started by the New Zealand Wool Board in the earliest days of the Golden Shears, which are to be held for the 61st time in Masterton’s War Memorial Stadium later in the same week, on March 4-6.

Four-times Golden Shears Open shearing champion and 2017 World titles winner John Kirkpatrick and 2019 World teams woolhandling title winner Pagan Karauria will be among instructors selflessly passing on the tips which could see even themselves cut out of the major honours and give their rivals the winning edge needed to take a World-acclaimed Golden Shears title.

Elite Wool Industry Training founder Tom Wilson concedes that had he been still competing even he could still have been there to learn more, despite having won two World titles for Scotland before he finally made New Zealand his home.

Wilson started coming to New Zealand to shear each summer about 1973 and despite having been an Open-class shearer from the start did Wool Board training courses almost annually upon arrival downunder for about 14 years.

The courses were World-renowned and “everyone” from the UK would do the New Zealand courses, he said, adding: “Every year I came over I would do one. It helped get rid of the bad habits you’d picked up in another country, you’d get in and get refreshed, and it was the chance to get back into shearing really woolly sheep after the lighter wool back in the UK.”

Ultimately it helped improve the tallies in the woolshed, including 576 perendale ewes in a four-stand World Record of 2519 in nine hours in 1982.

Wilson also did about four or five of the pre-shears courses around that time, including ahead of the 1980 World championships in Masterton.

It was to help reap the rewards, Wilson the World title in England in 1984, and in 1996 in Masterton the teams title with Scots compatriot Geordie Bayne.

Elite Wool Industry Training founder and former World champion shearer Tom Wilson competing for Scotland at the 1992 World Championships in England. Photo / Des Williams, Shearing Magazine

Ultimately settled in New Zealand, Wilson founded Elite Wool Industry Training in 2016, out of frustration over what he saw as the failure of a newly-introduced funded model of wool industry training’

“It was definitely not working, in the sense of delivering the one-on-one on-course training, and in shed follow up that allows young people entering, and already in, our industry to develop quickly into quality shearers, woolhandlers and pressers,” he said.

After a few months he was joined by renowned shearer and contractor Gavin (Swampy) Rowland, who had previously run popular training enterprise Tectra, and together with top-tier instructors Elite has kept national training in the industry alive for the last five years, on a user-pays basis but striving for “proper” funding for a credible, robust and quality driven training system.

He said not having funding had been restrictive to many young people who might otherwise have chosen a career in the wool industry.

Elite has now trained over 900 in the industry and was also responsible for running the course for all international shearers and woolhandlers before the 2017 world championships in Invercargill,

It had 33 on last year’s pre-shears high-performance course and is expecting similar numbers this year, with shearing instructors including Kirkpatrick and fellow Golden Shears Open finalists Jerome McRea, Paerata Abraham, and Aaron Haynes, while Karauria will be assisted in the woolhandling instruction by Open contender and former New Zealand Junior and Senior champion Brittany Tibble, and other guest instructors.

Registration can be done on-line at or for further information email or txt/call 0272 435 325 or visit the website

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