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Schools Shearing Champs

Pictured in Rathkeale’s moment of victory were (from left) Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman and shearing legend Sir David Fagan, shearers Charlie Heard, Michael Buick, Sam Mathewson, and Sam Loder, woolhandler Liam Quirke, and 2014 World champion and seven-times Golden Shears Open winniner Rowland Smith. Photo / NZ Rural Games

Rathkeale College claims schools shearing title

Wairarapa boys school Rathkeale College has been rewarded for a possible World-first by winning the first New Zealand Rural Games Secondary Schools Shearing Championship in Palmerston North.

The school north of Masterton, the heart of Golden Shears country, recently made shearing one of the core sports of its curriculum, alongside such others as rugby and cricket.

On Saturday in The Square Te Marae o Hine, in the heart of Palmerston North, a team of five beat four other schools, with Feilding Agricultural High School the runner-up, followed in order by New Plymouth, Napier and Palmerston North boys’ high schools.

Each school had four shearers shearing a sheep age in relay form with two shearers on the board at a time on the same stand that was being used for the invitation New Zealand Speed Shear Championship bringing the 7th annual Rural Games to an end on Sunday.

The way for the winning team was led by 17-year-old Michael Buick, from Pongaroa and already an accomplished Novice and now Junior shearing on the Shearing Sports New Zealand Circuit.

The others were shearers Sam Mathewson, of Martinborough, Sam Loder, of Carterton, and Charlie Heard, of Masterton, and woolhandler Liam Quirke, of Gladstone.

Son of New Zealand representative and multiple New Zealand New Zealand lambshearing titles winner, school prefect Buick was awarded top individual honours for best quality, by a judging team of four SSNZ officials including chairman and multiple World, Golden Shears and New Zealand titles winner Sir David Fagan.

Other judges were Russell Knight, of Apiri, Marcel Thwaites, of Feilding, and Ian Hopkirk, of Feilding.

Buick said he and his teammates would all have competed at the Golden Shears on March 4-6, had they o tee cancelled because of a Covid-19 Level 2 alert imposed just a few days earlier.

He said about 10 pupils at the school of taking-up shearing as a mainstream sport, lead by school Head of Department for Agriculture and Agri-business Coadette Low, with support from principal Marin O’Grady.

“She’s the one that takes us to all the competitions,” said Buick, who within a few days in January did 140 lambs on his first full eight-hour day and then his personal best to date of 220.

As part of the agreement, the sport has to have at least two training sessions a week, proving to be a boon for Wairarapa lifestyle block owners who get to have their small numbers of sheep shorn as part of the project.

Michael Buick receives the quality award from Rowland Smith. Photo / NZ Rural Games

Buick still has other goals for the season, including the New Zealand lambshearing championships at the Mackenzie A and P Show, where his father will defend the national Open title, and the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti on April 8-10 – both events that were cancelled last season because of the Covid-19 lockdown..

Shearers in the competition, in which games director Steve Hollander hopes to see a doubling of the number of schools next year, had the benefit of guidance from former World champions Sir David Fagan and Rowland Smith, the two most successful shearers in the 60 years of the Golden Shears Open final, with 16 and 7 wins respectively.

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