Big Rock Cougars in for busy week

Every major event has unheralded workers, behind the scenes, doing the hard yards in sometimes less than glamourous roles, to ensure the paying public sees a finished product that runs like clockwork.

The 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships will be no different when the event is hosted in Invercargill at ILT Stadium Southland from 8 to 11 February.

There, behind the World Championship stage, away from the bright lights is where the Big Rock Cougars will spend the four days of competition.

A group of, shall we say, "experienced" rugby players from Tokanui will take care of all the sheep handling with one Cougar in each catching pen holding the sheep for each shearer and another Cougar out the back tipping the shorn ewes and lambs up for judging.

It's a big undertaking with 12 to 14 men on duty for every minute of competition. But, according to Head Cougar Gus Dermody, they have plenty of options these days.

"We started as a Golden Oldies rugby team from Tokanui about 12 years ago. We've been to World tournaments in Wellington, Sydney and Buenos Aires in Argentina and we've now picked up a few outsiders from all over Southland," he said.

Dermody has the task of coordinating the man-power for Championship week and has 25 to 30 names he can call on to take care of the World Championship's Romney mob.

Prior to his current tenure in the Woodlands Tavern, Dermody was a shearer and contracted at Tokanui before spending seven years as a Wool Board Instructor, covering the South Island out of Lincoln.

Given his history with the sport and as a proud Southlander, he is delighted the event is being staged in his home patch.

"It's a great achievement to get the World Champs into a place like Invercargill and it's going to be a big undertaking. It's a bit hard to get 4500 sheep into the middle of a city, get them shorn and back out without someone noticing," he said.

And the Big Rock Cougars are going to handle every single one of those 4500!

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 at ILT Stadium Southland in Invercargill from 8 to 11 February. Tickets and event information can be found at www.worldshearingchamps.com.
Tokanui Big Rock Cougars team members, from left, Scott McKenzie, Peter Keast, Basil McLean, Philip Golden and Michael Wright. Photographed in 2014 by Fairfax NZ.


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