The top of the south is emerging as an unlikely leader in all-breeds shearing with the possibility four shearers from the Nelson-Marlborough region and the West Coast will be among the 12 qualifiers for New Zealand's premier all-breeds championship finals at the Golden Shears in Masterton in March.
While the district has fewer sheep and shearing gangs than many, the possibility has arisen after a good showing at the New Zealand Corriedale Championships, in Christchurch, the third of five qualifying rounds in the PGG Wrightson National, incorporating the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown.
The series opened with the finewool round at the New Zealand Merino Championships in Alexandra and the longwool of the New Zealand Spring Shears in Waimate last month, and continues with the national lambshearing championships at Raglan's Western Shears next month, and the second-shear sheep of the Pahiatua Shears at the end of February.
Points range from 12 for the top qualifiers in the heats at each event to one for 12th, and defending champion Angus Moore, the now-South Otago-based farmers' son from Ward and a former head boy at Marlborough Boys' College, has cemented his place with 11 points, to go with 3 from the opening round at the merino championships and 10 a week later at the Spring Shears in Waimate.
Blenheim concrete-pumping contractor and 51-year-old part-time shearer Tony Nott, who last week said he'd entered the series for the first time so that he could support Moore in his quest for another title and encourage other young shearers, will almost certainly also qualify, having been fourth in Friday's heats to card 9 points, on top of 9 in the opening two rounds.
West Coast shearer and surprise Corriedale Championships final winner Jason Win and Renwick veteran Chris Jones are knocking at the door of qualifying, with 11pts each, the threshold for 12th place after the final two rounds on lambs at Raglan in January and second-shear strongwool at Pahiatua in February having ranged in recent years from 12-16pts.
Three-times series winner Tony Coster, of Rakaia, and regular qualifier Grant Smith, also of Rakaia, lead the current series with 27 and 26 points respectively, while new Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman Gavin Rowland is also near-assured of qualifying, on 15pts.
Reigning Golden Shears and New Zealand Open champion John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, is the only North Island shearer currently in the top 12.
The series marks the 40th anniversary of the first presentation of the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown and attracted 29 entries for the compulsory opening round.
But they don't include the series' most successful shearer, Te Kuiti legend David Fagan, who won the final nine times from 1986 to 2008. The South Island has the overall advantage, with 24 wins to 16.
Leading placings and points after three of the five qualifying rounds in the PGG Wrightson National Shearing Circuit are:
Tony Coster (Rakaia) 27pts, 1;
Grant Smith (Rakaia) 26pts, 2;
Angus Moore (Balclutha) 24pts, 3;
Tony Nott (Blenheim) 18pts, 4;
Gavin Rowland (Rakaia) 15pts, 5;
Darrin Forde (Lorneville) 14, 6;
Chris Vickers (Palmerston) 13pts, 7;
Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) and John Kirkpatrick (Napier) 12pts, 8eq;
Chris Jones (Renwick) and Jason Win (Coleraine, Aus, and Ikamatua, NZ) 11pts, 10eq;
Josh Hull (Australia), Shaun Matheson (Riverton) and Tom Wilson (Darfield) 10pts, 12eq.
- The Marlborough Express