Woolhandler hunts for 100th title
It’s 99 down, and one to go for woolhandling champion Joel Henare, who will be chasing his 100th open title at Gore Southern Shears this Saturday.
This would make him only the second person to win as many, behind the late Joanne Kumeroa, of Whanganui, who won at least 128 titles.
Going into his 97th and 98th wins at Balclutha last Saturday in the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year and South Island Woolhandling Circuit events, Henare was relaxed: That’s the only way to win, he said.
‘‘You’ve got to be organised. You’ve got to concentrate on getting it right.’’
It all seemed to go to plan at Balclutha, with Henare well ahead of his rivals.
‘‘The sheep were good. The drought doesn’t seem to have affected them. The fleece was holding together this year – last year it fell apart more.’’
Otago Shears president Bruce Walker said full credit should be given to the suppliers Carterhope Estate and Mt Wallace station, which despite severe drought conditions in the region, had put aside and provided well-nurtured sheep for the competition.
Woolhandling competitor numbers were down this year compared with the shearing events, and had been falling in the past few years, he said.
Henare agreed, and believed it was a financial decision for some handlers, who were chasing the work, rather than the shearing competition circuit.
‘‘I think numbers will come back up. We’re wanting the next generation to come through that will want to get back into competition.’’
The 26-year-old father of three, who is originally from Gisborne and started his woolhandling career in Central Otago woolsheds aged 15, has made a change this season by taking a fulltime job in a fishery at his new home base of Motueka.
‘‘It’s the first time I’ve been out of the industry for 15 years, that I’m not around it 24/7, so it’s different.’’
Hastings shearer and successive Golden Shears winner Rowland Smith notched-up another open title on his belt, ahead of John Kirkpatrick of Napier, who won the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships machine shearing title at Invercargill last year, Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, Brett Roberts, of Mataura and Hayden Tapp, of Taihape.