Fa­gan’s shear­ing bril­liance

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT -

David Fa­gan is mak­ing his farewell tour. The 53- year- old shear­ing great re­cently fin­ished sec­ond in the South­ern Shears in Gore. Over the week­end he was a semi- fi­nal­ist in the Golden Shears in Master­ton – the Wim­ble­don of shear­ing, he calls it.

It will all fin­ish at the New Zealand cham­pi­onships in his home town, Te Kuiti, next month.

For­mer All Black cap­tain and coach Brian Lo­chore, a farmer for sev­eral decades, once told me the best shear­ers were at least as fit and strong, if not fit­ter, than the world’s best rugby for­wards.

‘‘Shear­ing is re­lent­lessly de­mand­ing and re­quires skills, dex­ter­ity and in­cred­i­ble stamina,’’ he said.

Fa­gan has proved a sports freak. Imag­ine Richie McCaw play­ing top in­ter­na­tional rugby at 53, be­cause that’s the equiv­a­lent of what Fa­gan is do­ing.

He was a world-class shearer by 1978, be­fore McCaw, Kieran Read or even Keven Mealamu were born. In 1979, Fa­gan set a world record by shear­ing 702 ewes in nine hours at Brun­nel Peaks, Te Anau.

How he’s main­tained his form and mo­ti­va­tion in the most back­break­ing of sports de­fies be­lief.

I liked the an­swer he gave to one re­porter last week: ‘‘ I’ve just eaten good food, noth­ing flash, just pota­toes, veg­eta­bles and that. There’s no sub­sti­tute for ex­pe­ri­ence. A lot of our sports­men chuck it in a bit early.’’

De­spite his 12 world ti­tles (five in­di­vid­ual, seven team) and 10 world records, he’s fairly much anony­mous in New Zealand. For ex­am­ple, he’s never even been a Hal­berg Awards fi­nal­ist. In shear­ing, though, he’s a gi­ant. The end of the Golden Shears on Satur­day night was ex­tremely emo­tional when Fa­gan was called to the stage and re­ceived a pro­longed stand­ing ova­tion.

He then pre­sented the Golden Shears tro­phy to Gavin Mutch.

It re­minded older shear­ing fans of the send- off given to New Zealand’s other shear­ing leg­end, Brian Quinn, four decades ago. They played Manfred Mann’s Mighty Quinn that evening and the crowd sang along.

When Quinn bowed out, it seemed un­likely his feats would ever be matched – just as when Don Clarke, and later Grant Fox, re­tired, their goal- kick­ing records seemed un­break­able. But then came Fa­gan. He was taught shear­ing by his broth­ers, John, Ge­off and Ken. For a while John and David vied for top honours, but then David cleaned up.

In re­cent years he’s been known in­side his sport as ‘‘ the Fed­erer of shear­ing’’, a com­pli­ment to the Swiss ten­nis mae­stro.

New Zealand has pro­duced many bril­liant shear­ers, which makes Fa­gan’s record all the more amaz­ing. He’s had to fend off the likes of Ed­sel Forde, Alan MacDon­ald, Paul Avery and John Kirk­patrick, each a cham­pion.

As Mutch said in Master­ton, Fa­gan has cost a lot of good shear­ers ti­tles over the years.

Fa­gan, eas­ily recog­nis­able be­cause of his shaven head, was al­ways the bench­mark, though.

He had fe­ro­cious de­ter­mi­na­tion, was tech­ni­cally skilled and had a tremen­dous tem­per­a­ment. He ne­go­ti­ated the fine line be­tween speed and qual­ity per­fectly.

Fa­gan would shear sheep dur­ing the week – up to 50,000 a year – as his job, then com­pete on week­ends. His stamina was ex­tra­or­di­nary.

Now he’s bow­ing out. What a le­gacy he leaves.


Dura­bil­ity: David Fa­gan re­mained a world-class shearer for 35 years.

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