Scoop has an Ethical Paywall
Work smarter with a Pro licence Learn More

Art & Entertainment | Book Reviews | Education | Entertainment Video | Health | Lifestyle | Sport | Sport Video | Search


Leon Samuels - First South Island Golden Shears Champion Since 1989

Southland shearer Leon Samuels marvels at becoming the first South Island shearer to winn the Golden Shears Open shearing final since 1989. Photo / Pete Nikolaison.

Southland shearer Leon Samuels became the first South Islander to win the Golden Shears Open shearing title in 35 years in a dramatic six-man final of 20 sheep each in Masterton tonight.

The winner of the New Zealand Shears Open final in Te Kuiti last April and thus a member of the New Zealand team at the World Championships in Scotland two months later, Samuels was second in the race – the only shearer to get within a sheep of miracle-man and Wairarapa shearer David Buick, who shore the final in 16m 16.064s, one of the quicker times in the 62 years of the event.

It was just two-and-a-half years after Buick was so badly injured in an accident on his Pongaroa farm the prognosis was that he might not even walk again.

Ultimately it was a Southland one-two, with 40-year-old Samuels, originally from Mangakino in the Central North Island but based in Southland or Australia for many years, and with only one previous Golden Shears Open final beforehand (third in 2020), winning by 1,253pts from runner-up and Riverton shearer Casey Bailey, in the final for the first time.

Losing some points in judging of the sheep in the pens, Buick was a further 1.26pts back in third place, followed in order by Southland veteran Nathan Stratford, in his 12th Golden Shears Open final, first-time championship finalist James Ruki, of Te Kuiti, and 2015 winner and Hawke’s Bay-based Scotland international Gavin Mutch.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

The last South Island shearer to win the Open was Edsel Forde in 1989, and it was Forde who was also last from the South Island to win the New Zealand Shears Open (in 1993) until Samuels won it 11 months ago.

Among those in the crowd of about 1000 was Alexandra great Brian ‘Snow” Quinn, who won the Golden Shears Open title six times between 1965 and 1972.

The drama started before the shears started, with eight-times winner Rowland Smith out with injury, and Northland gun and prolific winner Toa Henderson was then eliminated in the quarterfinals.

The pair and Samuels were quoted from the outset by the TAB as the most likely to win, Samuels making it a fifth win for the season.

Stratford won a third PGG Wrightson National Shearing Circuit final, with just a 0.355pts margin to Samuels in second place, in another Southland quinella.

It was Stratford’s 20th National circuit final, and on the night he also shore his 18th transtasman test, a New Zealand team record celebrated by teaming with Samuels and Marlborough shearer Angus Moore in an all-South Island win over Australians Daniel McIntyre, Nathan Meaney and Josh Bone.

But there were just 2.51pts in the test-match result, the closest margin in transtasman shearing tests since an Australian victory in Warrnambool, Vic, in 2013, and New Zealand’s narrowest win since 2009.

The first test in the annual home-and-away series was in Euroa, Vic, in October 1974, and there have now been 71 tests, Australia winning 38 and New Zealand 33, there having been no tests from 1984 to 1997.

It was Stratford’s last test, so for Samuels a proud moment to celebrate the win with his mentor.

It also gave New Zealand a 2-0 weekend, after woolhandlers Tia Potae and Cushla Abraham won their match against the Australian woolhandling team of Marlene Whittle and Alexander Scholl on Friday night.

Also in Saturday night, Joel Henare, 32, from Gisborne and stepping back from some competition this season to focus on his children in Motueka, won the Golden Shears Open woolhandling title for a 10th time in a row, but with a narrow margin of just six points from Alexandra hopeful Pagan Rimene.

The North Island Open woolhandling circuit final, carrying a place in the 2024-2025 New Zealand transtasman series team, was won by Keryn Herbert, of Te Kuiti.

But, having represented Cook Islands at the 2023 World Championships in Scotland, the team position went to runner-up Ngaio Hanson, of Eketahuna, who despite also having represented New Zealand at the World Championships in Scotland is yet to win an Open woolhandling final.

The second woolhandling member of the transtasman team next season will come from the New Zealand Merino Shears final in Alexandra in October this year.

A double for Taumarunui couple

Taumarunui partners Forde Alexander and Vinniye Phillips, who have a young son and daughter, won the Golden Shears senior finals.

Alexander was second-off in the shearing final of 12 sheep each, six seconds behind leading Southland hope Nathan Bee’s 12m 30.431s, but had the best quality both on the board and in the pens to win by more than two points from eventual runner-up Gabriel Winders, of Invercargill.

Bee had to settle for third place, but with just 0.003 points separating the pair in the race for the minor money.

The couple had been consistent placegetters as they travelled the shows together, each managing two wins earlier in the season, Alexander at the Hawke’s Bay show’s Great Raihania Shears in October and a fortnight later at the Manawatu show, but Phillips didn’t win until claiming the Taumarunui and Apiti shears’ titles the previous Friday and Saturday.

They will both be trying to make it a double-double at the New Zealand Shears in Te Kuiti next month, their last show before graduating to Open-class next year, Phillips joining sister and 2020 Golden Shears Junior woolhandling champion Te Anna Phillips.

It was close – but there was still a winner

The Intermediate shearing final, over eight sheep each, was always shaping as a close and open affair, and ended with just 0.98 points between first and fourth, the victory going to 27-year-old Feilding shearer Tini Papanui.

Gisborne farmer and shearer Dylan Young won the race in 10m 0.938s, more than a minute quicker than 27-year-old Papanui, the next man off.

Papanui was also just third-best on quality points, but had the best combination to beat eventual runner-up Young by 0.545pts.

The winner had been just starting to emerge in competition shearing at the time of the 2023 Golden Shears, when he was fifth in the Intermediate final, and this season had had just one win, at the Central Hawke’s Bay A and P Show in November.

Junior shearer learned from the Master

Napier shearer Kaivah Cooper’s decision to drop out of school four years ago at age 16 might have seemed not the best of life-choices, but he wasn’t going anywhere, other than to the top.

After four years of tertiary education in the woolshed, mentored by 2017 World champion and four-times Golden Shears Open champion John Kirkpatrick, he claimed the ultimate reward – a Golden Shears Junior shearing title.

Cooper had been in near unbeatable form and won at Taumarunui, Apiti and Pahiatua on successive days in the last weekend before the shears.

A former Napier Boys’ High School pupil, Cooper sheared his five sheep in 7m 37.755s to be first off the board and won the title by 1.663pts from runner-up and Hunterville shearer Orlando Ratima. The first five were North Island shearers, all beating top South Island contender Jet Schimanski, of Gore.

The Junior woolhandling title was won by Lucy Elers, from Mataura and who had already won three major titles in the South Island this year, at Lumsden (longwool), Winton (lambs) and Gore (second-shear).

Earlier in the championships Ashlin Swann, of Wairoa, won the Novice shearing final, and Keisha Reiri, from Masterton but based in Piopio, won the Novice woolhandling title.

Laura Bradley, of Papatawa, near Woodville, was a surprise elimination from the Senior shearing, in the heats, but bounced back to win the Women’s shearing event, becoming the first to hold the New Zealand Shears and Golden Shears women’s titles simultaneously.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Culture Headlines | Health Headlines | Education Headlines



  • Wellington
  • Christchurch
  • Auckland

Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.