Dobbs to try and stretch undefeated run to Worlds

While the All Blacks' run of consecutive victories grabbed all the headlines, there was a wily South Canterbury blade shearer who was quietly dominating his chosen discipline just as emphatically.

His name is Tony Dobbs and his undefeated competition run stretches back to the 2014 and now sits at 25, after his latest victory at the Canterbury A&P Show last week.

Dobbs will anchor the New Zealand blade shearing team at the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill alongside fellow South Cantabrian Phil Oldfield and has hopes of keeping his undefeated record in tact to finish his career on a high.

Dobbs was crowned World Champion in 1988 and then stepped away from the sport to concentrate on family. He started shearing judging to get his fix, but was talked into a comeback after a 20-year absence.

"I said a comment and I thought I better put my money where my mouth was and front up and see if I could actually make the team and she's been a rollercoaster ride since," he said.

"It wasn't easy after 20 years away. You get out on the stage when everybody is watching you and some think it's easy, but it's all the dark days when no one is watching you when you're training. That's the hard bit," Dobbs said.

He had already secured his World Championship selection by the time he lined up in Christchurch at the final selection event last week, but he kept his standards up, along with his undefeated record.

"It's a benchmark I set myself two years ago after I came back from Ireland (and the World Champs). I wanted to show that I deserved to be there and prove that to the local public. And I wanted another go at it," he said.

He's got his wish and now, with his World Champs selection official, he can turn his attention once more to preparing for a World Championship tilt.

"I'll get the chance to do a bit of shearing locally in the January period, probably just a bit of fitness training and I've got the Welsh team and the Scottish team coming to stay at my property so we'll shear a bit together. I'll give them a bit of knowledge, not enough to be too dangerous though," he said with a smile.

"I'm going into this one with a bit more confidence than the last one because I beat the South Africans in Australia at a Tri-Nations event."

It's one of the key storylines of next year's championships. Can Dobbs (or anyone for that matter, break southern Africa's domination of blade shearing's world titles.

Since Dobbs' world championship win in 1988, every blade shearing world title has been won by a hand shearer from South Africa or Lesotho, a small land-locked country, completely surrounded by South Africa.

"They are the powerhouses of hand shearing in the world and they've been dominant since 1988 when I left. They've got good training facilities over there and they just don't get flustered on the day," Dobbs said

To Dobbs, it's that mental strength that makes them so dominant. "They know how to control their emotions and at the end of the day everybody is on the same field and it's that top four inches, keeping it together and doing your thing and don't let anybody else upset what you set out to do," he said.

Something Dobbs and Oldfield will have to match when they line up on the board in Invercargill in February.
Above: Phil Oldfield (left) and Tony Dobbs, after being selected as New Zealand's blade shearing team for the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill in February.


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