Fagan - Competitions vital to shearing industry

I can't emphasise enough the importance of shearing competitions to the industry. It's our shop window and it helps keep the quality of our shearing the best in the world.

I've always believed that if shearing competitions ended, the quality of workmanship in the shed would go back really quickly.

Right from day one, when shearers are taught by instructors, all the way through the ranks to the best-of-the-best, there's always that drive to get better and in the workplace. Even towards the end of my career, I never stopped thinking of how I could do a better job.

The best way for those starting in the industry to improve their work in the shed is to get involved in competitions. It gives you a structure to improve your trade and lets you hone your craft in a competitive environment.

It makes your job easier and ultimately, you're going to earn more money. And if you're doing a top-quality job, you're going to get on better with the shearing contractor and the farmer. There are no downsides.

As we know, shearing is such a physically demanding job. But, you can add some fun by competing against your mates and when you do well, it's pretty bloody good.

It works the other way as well. Time in the shed leading in to a major competition like World Champs is hugely important. Shearing is a job where repetition makes you better and if you're practicing during the week for what you do in competition on the weekend, you're going to get better naturally and fast. All the things you learn with gear preparation and comb selection for competitions also has spin-offs for your shearing every day.

Where I grew up you were in competition every day at work. It was a healthy environment where you were out to beat the guy next to you.

Shearing is unique in that you can practice all week for your sport on the weekend.

No one will be looking at more ways to make small improvements than our two New Zealand World Champs' shearers, Johnny Kirkpatrick and Nathan Stratford. They will be looking at all the angles on how to get marginally better, whether it be fitness or technique and they will be placing a heavy focus on the lead-in competitions. The one thing that will make them and all of their closest rivals better for World Champs will be competing in the lead-up events.

I've always said whatever happens this weekend, you're getting better for next weekend.

By the later years of my career I'd learnt a lot about fitness and had the experience. There's no substitute for experience. You get wiser about how to handle different situations and the pressure that goes with representing your country at a World Championship.

New Zealand has a very experienced team. Even though Nathan Stratford is having his first crack at World Champs, he has as much experience as any competition shearer in the country, having represented NZ in the UK and Australia. It might be his first World Champs but he knows what he's in for.

But in the end, things haven't changed that much. You've still got to drag that sheep out and get around it as quickly as you can with as high a quality job as possible. If you can be the fastest with top quality you're going to win every competition. Easy to say, harder to do!

Sir David Fagan has won 12 world titles, is the Chairman of Shearing Sports New Zealand and a member of the Organising Committee for the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill from 8 to 11 February. Visit www.worldshearingchamps.com for tickets and more information.


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