Shearing champ has to settle for fourth in Fairlie swan song
Multiple national all-breeds shearing champion and New Zealand representative Tony Coster of Rakaia had to settle for fourth at the Mackenzie A&P Show open shearing title at Fairlie on Easter Monday.
Coster, in his competitive swan song, was hoping for his fourth consecutive win in the event but was beaten by Hawke's Bay shearer Rowland Smith. Ringakaha Paewai of Gore took second place and Jack Fagan of Te Kuiti, son of multiple world champion Sir David Fagan, was fourth.
Young up-and-coming competitor Eli Cummings from Pleasant Point took fifth place.
Smith arrived in Fairlie on the back of 19 consecutive wins this year, including the Southland All Nations Championship, the Golden Shears and the New Zealand Open Championship. He had also won the open final shearing at the Royal Easter Show in Auckland the previous Saturday which saw him rise to number one in Shearing Sports New Zealand's open ranking.
Smith is planning an attempt on a world record of 605 strong wool ewes in an eight-hour day in England in July, while also on a New Zealand team tour of the UK with new world champion John Kirkpatrick, also of Hawke's Bay.
Smith was one of two North Island shearers who flew south for the Mackenzie Shears, which marked the opening of a new six-stand shearing pavilion by Sir David Fagan.
Coster earned more that 70 open final wins during his career, mostly in Canterbury and most prolifically at Mayfield, with 11 wins.
In 2014 he beat legendary shearer Sir David Fagan at Fairlie by seven points.
"It wasn't really David's type of sheep," Coster said.
Coster had won more times in the North Island than any other southern shearer. His first competition was at Methven in the late 1980s, but his first open win was the Mid Canterbury circuit final at Ashburton in 1993. It was one of 85 competitions throughout the country that year, compared with today's calendar of just over 60 competitions.
Coster specialises in multi-breed events. He has regularly won the Canterbury all-breeds title, but his greatest successes have been in the North Island where he had five PGG Wrightson National Circuit final wins over five different sheep types.
The only South Island shearers with more individual wins at the Golden Shears are Snow Quinn and Colin King
Coster, who runs a courier business, says he still shears about 25,000 sheep a year and while the Mackenzie A&P Show signalled the end of the serious part of his competition career he expects he will still shear occasionally at local shows.
"I'm still enjoying it," he said. "But the body starts to wear down a bit and you do have to do a bit extra if you are following the shows around."
If there was one regret it was that he had not taken the chance to work in the North Island when he was younger, to get up to speed to be competitive in the major North Island championship finals, he said.