Pressure on for World Champs selection

Anticipation is building ahead of the final selection event for the New Zealand team to compete at the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill in February.

This Thursday and Friday, six machine shearers, six woolhandlers and three blade shearers will compete for the two New Zealand selection spots available in each discipline.

The gruelling selection process dates back 10 months with the final six competitors being determined by points accrued across six selection events held throughout the country during the year.

On Thursday, woolhandlers Joel Henare (Gisborne), Pagan Karauria (Alexandra), Sheree Alabaster (Taihape), Tia Potae (Milton), Keryn Herbert (Te Kuiti) and Maryanne Baty (Gisborne) will face off at the Canterbury A&P Show in Christchurch with the top two place-getters booking their ticket for ILT Stadium Southland in February.

On Friday the same applies for shearers Rowland Smith (Hastings), John Kirkpatrick (Napier), Nathan Stratford (Invercargill), David Buick (Pongaroa), Aaron Haynes (Feilding) and Darin Forde (Lornville).

Fairlie's Tony Dobbs has already booked one of the two blade shearing selections and he will be joined in the Kiwi team on Friday by either Phil Oldfield (Geraldine) or Tim Hogg (Timaru).

Two men who are directly involved with the organisation of the 2017 World Championships know exactly what the athletes are going through this week.

Organising committee Chairman Tom Wilson won an individual world championship in 1984 and said this week was the culmination of months of hard work for each competitor. "Everyone is on edge. They are the best in the business, without doubt. It's just going to come down to who can handle the pressure the best," Mr Wilson said. "It's a whole new ballgame, with everyone starting from scratch and it really brings home just how close we are to the event now," he said.

Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman and five-time World Individual champion Sir David Fagan was loathe to pick a winner. "Rowland (Smith) and John (Kirkpatrick) would start favourites but the Southland boys (Stratford and Forde) would bring the house down in Invercargill if they made the team and David and Aaron are in great form, so anything could happen," he said. "The same holds true in the Woolhandling. Joel (Henare) will be the one to beat but the rest of the field are a mix of past national reps and newcomers, so it's all up for grabs. It's going to be fascinating to see how it unfolds," Mr Fagan said.

Sir David is, himself, no stranger to competing in pressure situations and believes the shearers and woolhandlers will relish this week's opportunity. "It's an exciting time for all of them. There's an incredible opportunity ahead and it will be a pretty special time for the lucky ones who make it through," he said. "I know it will bring the best out in all of them."

The format for Friday's machine shearing final will be six full-wool ewes, eight second-shear ewes and six lambs, the same format as the World Championship final. The woolhandlers will contest semi-finals followed by a three-person final on Thursday to determine the World Championship line-up.

The New Zealand team confirmation represents the kick-start of the final run-in to the World Championships, which are being staged in the South Island for the first time in its 40-year history at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill from 8 to 11 February.

Strong demand has seen tickets to all four days of competition sell strongly.

Full event and ticketing information is available via the event website at worldshearingchamps.com.


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