Stratford and Kirkpartick confirm selection for Worlds

Hosting a World Championship shearing event in your home-town is rare. Making the team to represent your country in that same event, even rarer.

But, that's the scenario facing Southlander Nathan Stratford after he caused the second boil-over in as many days at the New Zealand World Championship Shearing Team Selection Finals, held in Christchurch on Friday.

A ten-month long selection process ended in dramatic fashion at the Canterbury A&P Show with Stratford edging reigning World and New Zealand Champion Rowland Smith by the narrowest of margins, to grab the second New Zealand selection spot alongside 2014 World Championship team member John Kirkpatrick of Napier.

"It's very unexpected. I had my thoughts pinned on Rolly (Smith) and Johnny (Kirkpatrick) so I am shocked. When my name was read out I actually turned and looked at my mates, the other shearers, and felt sorry for them because of all the effort they put in. You feel sorry for them and yet happy for yourself," Stratford said.

In the final wash-up, it was the quality of both Kirkpatrick's and Stratford's work that earned their selections. Kirkpatrick bravely fought back after early trouble, finishing third on time behind veteran Southlander Darin Forde and Smith. Stratford was a full sheep behind the first finishers, switching off for the final time more than a minute later.

"We had a set strategy to keep up with the pace," Stratford said. "Halfway through the shear we started falling off the pace and my pen man told me to keep going to the best of my ability. Obviously, it did pay off because another second slower and I would have lost out. My time does need to improve dramatically," he said.

Whilst Stratford was unnecessarily unhappy with his shear in the Selection Final, Kirkpatrick was more confident. "I didn't make any mistakes. I was a little off the pace but everything else went as good as it could on the day so I was confident as we finished," he said.

"Sometimes time isn't everything. As long as you're sitting back doing the job and you're not making mistakes, to me, that is more important than speed," Kirkpatrick said.

"Sometimes you get pressured by being in front. When everyone starts coming back at you, you start making stupid mistakes that you normally wouldn't make. You don't have to be first off. There were two spots (in the New Zealand team) up for grabs today, not just one. That's what sometime you lose focus of, thinking you've got to be first every time. But you don't," he said.

Both Kirkpatrick and Stratford see advantages in shearing at a home World Championship.

"The sheep down in Southland usually comb better than anywhere else in New Zealand. They are bigger sheep, but they aren't usually as wild so they'll actually suit us better than most people around the world," Kirkpatrick said.

With the World Championships under three months away, final preparations for both men will be crucial.

"We'll start doing a lot more training," Kirkpatrick said. "We've got a lot of work coming up now so we'll do two months of work and we'll start concentrating on the shows and getting fit for them in January and then the Worlds," he said

Likewise, Stratford faces a busy few months. "I was hoping to have a beer and relax but with Darin (Forde) as my boss, he'll no doubt send me to some big sheds," he said

Kirkpatrick and Stratford are joined in the New Zealand team by woolhandlers Joel Henare and Mary-Anne Baty, both from Gisborne, and blade shearers Tony Dobbs (Fairlie) and Phil Oldfield (Geraldine).

The 40th anniversary World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships are being held in the South Island for the first time at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill from 8 to 11 February, 2017.

NZ Shearing Selection Livestream


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