Fagan back to where it began

Shearing legend Sir David Fagan today heads to Masterton's Golden Shears for a 42nd year in a row as keen as ever about the big event, despite industry and sports concerns about a drop in the number of entries.

Sir David first travelled from King Country to the shears as a schoolboy in 1976 to support older brother John.

Despite having at the time, he reckons, barely known what a shearing handpiece looked like, it was only eight years later that he was runner-up in his brother's only Golden Shears Open win, and just another two years before the first of his own record 16 wins in the glamour event from 1986 to 2009.

Now chairman of national body Shearing Sports New Zealand he says the decline in the number of entries, in the three-day Golden Shears, starting today (Thursday), part of a drop experienced across many of the 60 competitions throughout the country this summer, punters can still expect to see the best in the country, including four new World champions, all looking to feature in Saturday night's big finals.

"The cream will always rise to the top," he said. "Once the elimination stages are through, it really heats up and all the top ones will still be there."

While no longer competing, apart from a minute sharing the competition board with Prime Minister Bill English in a break during the World Championships in Invercargill two weeks ago, he said: "The Golden Shears is still to the forefront of any shearing sports competitor's mind. Me? I'm a spectator now. I'm looking forward to it."

Golden Shears president Philip Morrison said more than 30 entries had "come-in" this week and he hoped entries could get to 350, which would still be short of the 2016 entry.

More than 3500 sheep are ready, mainly Romney ewes from farms in the district but also including about 200 finewooled merino wethers from Central Otago and small numbers of lambs and corriedales.

Having comprised less than 10 shearing events when first held in 1961 in annual venue the Masterton War Memorial Stadium, the Golden Shears now feature more than 20 shearing, woolhandling and pressing events, including Trans-Tasman woolhandling and shearing tests between New Zealand and Australia.

Classic examples of the talent on display are the appearance of the new World champions, shearers John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, and Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, and woolhandlers Joel Henare and Mary-Anne Baty, both from Gisborne.

But Hastings shearer Rowland Smith, the 2014 World champion, is defending the Golden Shears Open title, and was today rated such a hot favourite by the TAB that in addition to its usual "To Win" pool it has established an option with Smith excluded.

Competition will take place in the Open, Senior, Intermediate, Junior and Novice Shearing grades, the Open, Senior, Junior and Novice woolhandling grades, and men's women's, and pairs woolpressing.

As well as the Trans-Tasman test matches, there are also the PGG Wrightson National Shearing Championship final (the country's premier multi-breeds shearing event), a Speedshear, a traditional Maori-Pakeha teams shearing event, YFC events dating back to the shears' earliest days, and a triathlon – the combined points of competitors prepared to have a go at all three disciplines of shearing, woolhandling and pressing.


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