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An Eight-year Dream Comes True In The Woolshed

Amy-Lee Ferguson finally celebrates a winning ribbon, after the Northern Southland Community Shears' New Zealand Longwool Championships Open woolhandling final on Friday. PHOTO / SSNZ

Once one of the most prolific winners in New Zealand woolhandling, Amy-Lee Ferguson has ended an eight-year drought by winning the New Zealand Longwool Championships Open final at the Northern Southland Community Shears on Friday.

As Amy-Lee Ruki, from Invercargill, she was Shearing Sports New Zealand’s No 1-ranked Junior woolhandler in the 2008-2009 season, and the Senior No 1 a year,

Now living in Alexandra she had until Friday’s competition in the Lowther Downs woolshed at Five Rivers, near Lumsden, had just one other win in the Open class – in 2013 at the New Zealand Merino Championships in Alexandra, where she reached the final and was fourth in her first Open competition three years earlier.

In a field of just 11, impacted by the Covid-19 climate, she was second in the heats, and was third in qualifying for the three-person final, in which the runner-up was 2015 and 2019 winner, 2019 World Teams champion and reigning No-1 ranked open woolhandler Pagan Rimene, of Alexandra. Third was Kelly Macdonald, of Domett, in North Canterbury.

“I was behind in time every round, but I told myself I would rather get it right on the table,” Ferguson said after the win. “This is something I love to do day in and day out at mahi.”

“My intention for this show was to make it there and take every round as it comes,” she said. “My key was to stay calm and focus on the actual competition.”

She said it wasn't an easy final, and explained: “We had six fullwool sheep. There were a few extra oddments that needed attention when removing the faults from the fleece on the table.”

“There was a bit of colour, shed and water stain up the sides of the fleece,” she said. “It’s very normal in that area due to weather conditions.”

She was last to finish the final, 41 seconds and what would normally have been a telling 15.4 time-points behind Rimene, and a further 32pts in arrears on board-points.

With marginally the better oddments points she creamed-it with easily the better fleece points, incurring just 16 penalty points, which compared with the 80 of both her rivals, but had no idea of the outcome until the prizegiving ceremony.

“I was in-stock when they were calling out to me as I still had no idea I had won the show,” she said. “I was speechless for the first time in my life.”

While she had made other finals since 2013, the mother-of-three said she had “lots of time off from the shows due to goals outside of the industry.”

“I’m over the moon with the win,” she said. “For others that dream of a win in this grade the message is get trained and train yourself at mahi, and never give up because the more shows you do the more experienced you become.”

She plans to continue her run in the South Island Woolhandling Circuit which continues on February 12 at the Otago Shears at Telford Farm, near Balclutha, and the Southern Shears in Gore the following weekend.

The Senior final was won by Tamara Marshall, of Waikaretu, Port Waikato, and the Junior final by Emma Martin, of Gore.

There were just 21 competitors across the three grades, and just 31 in the four shearing classes, each shorn in two rounds and in which Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford won the Open title for a sixth time, 20 years after the first. He also won Intermediate and Senior titles in the championship when it was previously shorn at Mossburn.

Now in his 25th season of Open-class shearing he has won 73 finals, including two in the UK and four in the North Island, among them the major multi-wool national circuit final at the Golden Shears in Masterton and the New Zealand Shears Circuit in Te Kuiti (twice).

It was close on Friday, with Stratford and runner-up and Mataura shearer Brett Roberts relying on the better quality points after being third and fourth to finish the five-man final over 20 sheep each.

Ringakaha Paewai, of Gore, was first-off in 19min 42.53sec, but in the end Stratford got the honours from Roberts by 0.198pts, with Leon Samuels, of Invercargill, third, Paewai having to settle for fourth place, and Willy McSkimming, of Oamaru, was fifth.

Brayden Clifford, of Waikaka, won the Senior final by over three points from runner-up Alex Clapham, from Yorkshire, England, the Intermediate title went to James Wilson, from Ryall Bush, and the Junior final was won by Handsum McGregor, from Raupunga, Hawke’s Bay.

Four A and P show shearing sports competitions that would normally have been held on Saturday, from nearby Winton to Kaikohe, were cancelled because of the Covid-19 crisis.

The shearing-only Tapawera Sports Shears, including a Speedshear, will be held next Saturday, south of Nelson. On Sunday, Levin will host the first competition in the North Island this summer, after a string of cancellations in October-December.

Scheduled as shearing-only, the Horowhenua Shears has added woolhandling to its programme for the first time since 2009.

Results from the Northern Southland Community Shears’ New Zealand Longwool Shearing and Woolhandling Championships at Lowther Downs, Five Rivers, on Friday, January 14, 2021:


Open final (20 sheep): Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 20min 3.54sec, 65.377pts, 1; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 20min 5sec, 65.75pts, 2; Leon Samuels (Invercargill) 19min 59.35sec, 67.2175pts, 3; Ringakaha Paewai (Gore) 19min 42.53sec, 4; Willy McSkimming (Oamaru) 22min 1.63sec, 75.5815pts, 5.

Senior final (12 sheep): Brayden Clifford (Waikaka) 16min 1.12sec, 57.806pts, 1; Alex Clapham (Yorkshire, England) 16min 47.84sec, 61.0587pts, 2; Sais Horrell (Te Anau) 15min 59.54sec, 62.8937pts, 3; Mason Adams (Lumsden) 17min 24.91sec, 64.1627pts, 4; Corentin Plancon (Grenoble, France) 17min 25.81sec, 66.2905pts, 5.

Intermediate final (8 sheep): James Wilson (Ryall Bush) 11min 36.09sec, 43.0545pts, 1; Jimmy Napier (Riversdale) 12min 17.57sec, 46.6285pts, 2; Jordan White (Winton) 13min 31.31sec, 55.0655pts, 3.

Junior final (4 sheep): Handsum McGregor (Raupunga) 7min 54.81sec, 35.49pts, 1; Oliver Hogan (Mabel Bush) 8min 38.31sec, 40.415pts, 2; James Hogan (Mabel Bush) 7min 40.66sec, 41.783pts, 3; Dre Roberts (Mataura) 9min 56.37sec, 42.568pts, 4; Jimmy Johnstone Winton) 9min 21.09sec, 45.804pts, 5.


Open final: Amy-Lee Ferguson (Alexandra) 123.81pts, 1; Pagan Karauria (Alexandra) 146.41pts, 2; Kelly Macdonald (Domett) 171.57pts, 3.

Senior final: Tamara Marshall (Waikaretu) 106.406, 1; Heaven Little (Balclutha) 126.938pts, 2; Charis Morrell (Alexandra) 221.49pts, 3.

Junior final: Emma Martin (Gore) 112.35pts, 1; Hani Ropata (Ohai) 126.812pts, 2; Stoneigh-J Waihape (Invercargill) 133.802pts, 3.

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