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Nathan Stratford On Target For 20th National Shearing Circuit Final

Two-times national shearing circuit champion Nathan Stratford has set sail for a possible 20th final in the annual all-breeds championship with maximum points in the first two rounds of the 2023-2024 PGG Wrightson/Vetmed series.

The Southland gun first reached the final in 2000, when it was won by David Fagan, one of the record 9 national circuit wins in a global career resulting in a knighthood for Fagan in the 2016 New Year Honours.

Stratford won the title in 2014 and 2022, and was runner-up in 2019 and 2020, and 3rd in 2001, 2012, 2015 and 2017.

He was 5th in the 2022-2023 final in March, when the title was claimed for a 3rd time by Marlborough shearer Angus Moore, who is not contesting the series this season.

It attracted 27 entries for the compulsory start on finewool at the New Zealand Merino Shears on September 30, Stratford getting the 12 points as top qualifier in the heats and repeating the effort at the Waimate Spring Shears a week later.

The series continues at the New Zealand Corriedale Shearing and Woolhandling Championships being held in Christchurch on November 16-17, the lambshearing round will be at the Rangitikei Shearing Sports in Marton on February 3 and the compulsory second-shear round at the Pahiatua Shears on February 25.

The top 12, based on points for placings in the heats at each show, then head for the semi-finals and final on March 2 at the Golden Shears in Masterton, where the final has been shorn almost every year since the circuit’s establishment as the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown in 1973.

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The 2021 and 2022 finals were shorn respectively at the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti and Armidale Station, Gimmerburn, in Central Otago, after the Golden Shears was twice cancelled because of the global pandemic.

The 24 points already claimed by Stratford, who holds the record for the most transtasman tests shorn by any New Zealand shearer - which he extended to 18 in South Australia on October 21 – is expected to guarantee his place in the top 12, although he still has to shear at Pahiatua to be eligible.

In second place is New Zealand teammate, fellow Southland shearer and 2021 winner Leon Samuels, who won both the Merino Shears and Waimate Shears finals this season despite missing the top series points in the heats.

In third place is 2019 winner and reigning New Zealand Shears Te Kuiti circuit champion Paerata Abraham, of Masterton, and fourth is 1997 winner Dion Morrell, who bypassed the Waimate Shears after claiming 11 points at his home-show in Alexandra.

It’s the 22nd season in which PGG Wrightson has been the major sponsor, dating back to 2003.

The winner becomes an automatic selection in the New Zealand transtasman series team, with the other members coming from the Merino Shears and Golden Shears Open finals.

Provisional points and placings in the 2023-2024 PGG Wrightson/Vetmed National Shearing Circuit after two rounds: Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 24pts, 1; Leon Samuels (Invercargill/Roxburgh) 20pts, 2; Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 14pts, 3; Dion Morrell (Alexandra) 11pts, 4; Duncan Leslie (Owaka) 11pts, 5; David Gordon (Masterton) 11pts, 6; Stacey Te Huia (Alexandra) 10pts, 7; Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 10pts, 8; Hugh De Lacy (Rangiora) 10pts, 9; Duncan Higgins (Havelock) 9pts, 10; Toa Henderson (Kaiwaka) 9pts, 11; Brett Roberts (Mataura) 7pts, 12; Corey Palmer (Dipton) 7pts, 13; Catherine Mullooly (Matawai), 3pts, 14; Willy McSkimming (Oamaru) 3 pts, 15; Adam Gordon (Masterton) 2pts, 16; Floyd Neil (Taumarunui/Boyup Brook, Aus) 2pts, 17; Corey Barrowcliffe (Piopio) 2pts, 18; Alex Smith (Rakaia) 1pt, 19; James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 1pt, 20; Lionel Taumata (Taumarunui/Gore) 1pt, 21; Jake Rangiuaia (Mataura) 1pt, 22; Tom Reed (-) 1pt, 23; Norm Harraway (Mossburn) 1pt, 24; Chris Dickson (Masterton) 1pt, 25; Colin Dennison (Kurow) 1pt, 26; Kyle Mita (Masterton) 1pt, 27.

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