Preparations well in hand a month from Champs

A month out from the 2017 World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, organising Committee Chairman Tom Wilson is a happy man.

"I'm very comfortable with where our preparations are at. We are on target and on schedule. Everybody has a job to do and they are all doing it well," he said.

The Championships have a 40-year history, dating back to when it was first held at Bath and West in England in 1977. Wilson's involvement stretches nearly as far. The Scotsman contested his first World Championships in Masterton in 1980. He finished third overall on debut and then became the first non-New Zealander to win a world title in England in 1984. He also has a world teams title to his name, won with team mate George Bayne in 1996, and was a member of the organising committee for the 2003 World Championships in Edinburgh.

It's that experience, along with that of his hard-working organising committee, which has held the championship planning in good stead.

"We've all been involved in shearing competitions and some of us in World Championships for too many years when you look at it. You've got Sir David Fagan, his brother John, Michael Hogan from down south here, Warren Parker, Andrew Lambie, Gavin Rowland and our event manager Jude McNab. We all have a vision for how it should look at the end of it all, so it's not hard to drive it forward because we've all got that same end goal," Mr Wilson said.

A record 32 countries will attend next month's World Championships. When you consider the distance from Europe, which makes up the bulk of both the world's sheep and shearer populations, Wilson believes that result is phenomenal.

"It's unheard of to get this many attending on this side of the world. We've put in a lot of hard work to get these countries to come to New Zealand. Our main focus with our proposal at the beginning was on getting as many countries as possible here. We told them we'd look after them and would give them training sessions over here which we are going to do. That was a big drawcard for them," he said.

Mr Wilson also believes the large number of lead-in events over the next month has also played a key role in the strong international attendance.

"We've got so many competitions in the leadup to the event which gives the teams three or four weeks' practice before they have to perform on the world stage. It starts with Tauranga and Duvauchelle (Banks Peninsula) this weekend and then there's at least one competition every weekend right through to the Champs," he said.

There's been great support from the global shearing community and great support from the local community too.

"Right from the outset the Invercargill city and Southland region has got behind us and it hasn't wavered the whole way though. Invercargill City Council, Invercargill Licensing Trust and Community Trust of Southland provided great support which was a real leg-up for us at the start," Mr Wilson said.

"Ticket sales have been incredibly strong. We're ahead of where we thought we'd be and with casual sales between now and the event, hopefully we'll be full for at least the Friday and Saturday nights," he said.

"It's going to be a pretty special set-up. Most major shearing competitions are held in community centres and the like, but to have a world-class stadium the size of ILT Stadium host shearing and woolhandling is amazing," he said.

The next month is all about finishing touches. There will be liaising with the international teams and officials as they arrive, coordinating accommodation and the final logistics that come with putting on a World Championship.

Then, hopefully, comes the chance for the organisers to enjoy the fruits of all their hard work.

"It has been like a long rollercoaster ride. Some things have happened easily and the next minute you've got to really dig in with something a bit more challenging. It is a bit of a labour of love but you work through it," Mr Wilson said.

"As long as we have a good event and its well received, then our job's done."

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.


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