Norm Harraway - Commentator hopeful for local win

Norm Harraway. Even if you don't know his name, by the end of the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill in February, you will definitely know his voice.

Harraway will be one of the commentary team whose tones will bring ILT Stadium Southland to life when the world's best shearers and woolhandlers descend on New Zealand's deep south in the new year and he couldn't be happier with the decision to host the event in the South Island for the first time in its history.

"I'm from Southland originally and I was bloody rapt to see it go to Invercargill. They love their shearing sports down south and they are going to get in behind it better than anywhere in the country," he said.

"Everyone is sticking their hand up to help, sponsors are getting involved, there's always great media support and we've got a great committee doing all the work organising it."

Harraway has become a fixture on the microphone at New Zealand's premier shearing and woolhandling events, particularly in the South Island. He was on duty at the last World Championships in Gorey, Ireland in 2014 where he watched Hawkes Bay shearer Rowland Smith claim a world title and he like the chances of another New Zealand win at home.

"Nathan (Stratford) deserves to be there. He's such a strong competitor who is going to be hard to beat at home. Even though I'm a Southland boy at heart, it would be great to see Johnny (Kirkpatrick) win, given what he's done for the sport over the years and how close he's come to becoming the world champion previously. I'm sure he's going to be right up there and has a great chance winning too," he said.

Although, after his first-hand look at the contingent from the Northern Hemisphere in 2014, he believes a Kiwi victory is far from guaranteed.

"The UK guys are so strong. The Scottish are defending team champs, England and Wales have got great shearers and so have Ireland now. The competition is getting closer and closer. Thousands watch shearing competitions at the big shows over there. That's what we've got to live up to in Invercargill next year," he said.

Of the thousands who have already purchased tickets for February's historic event, not too many will have as good a view of the action as Harraway.

"There's nothing better than watching the guys and girls who are the best in the world at their sport just going for it. I feel really lucky to meet them all and to get to know them as people. They are all good buggers. They work in an industry that demands they work bloody hard and they are all practically minded people. They are at the very top of their sport but are really good people as well," he said.

Likewise, Harraway put the sport first when he filled in behind the mic at a local shearing event 12 years ago.

"Commentating wasn't something I ever intended getting into. I was wanting to give a bit back to the sport and at the time we were short of commentators up in Ashburton, so I filled a gap for the Southern Man Speed Shears. Then I got told I had to do the Ashburton A&P Show by my so-called mates and it just went from there really," he said.

"I like to think that I'm helping the competitors by letting them know where everyone else is during the competition and hopefully entertaining the crowd a little bit at the same time," Harraway said.

And he knows his stuff. After all he can call on 32 years' shearing experience throughout New Zealand and overseas, with over 15 year stints as both a provincial shearing instructor and shearing contractor along with his own competitive shearing career. "But like most things I found I was better at talking about shearing than actually doing it," he said.

There should be no surprise about the name that comes up when he's asked about the highlight of what he's witnessed in shearing facilities over the last dozen plus years.

"Watching David Fagan win consistently for 30-odd years has been pretty special. I'm a big fan of his and of the Southland boys, Darin Forde in particular. Guys like that are just so strong mentally as well as physically. Like all top sportspeople, it comes down to the top two or three inches. Shearing is no different than any other sport," he said.

The 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships will be held in the South Island of New Zealand for the first time in its 40-year history in Invercargill from 8 to 11 February. Tickets and event information can be found at worldshearingchamps.com.

Norm Harraway (third from right) with his fellow commentators at the 2014 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Gorey, Ireland.


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