Taking on the northerners at a fast clip

Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford will be part of the New Zealand team competing against Wales next month.
Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford will be part of the New Zealand team competing against Wales next month.

Southland shearer Nathan Stratford is no stranger to hard work or the thrill of competition. He talks to Terri Russell about the upcoming Southern Shears competition and what drives him to keep going out on the boards.

'‘Thrillseeking" is the word Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford uses to describe the experience first-time showgoers can expect at next month's Southern Shears in Gore.

"People get buzzed out at what actually happens at competitions."

From farm gate to revved-up competitions, shearing was a sport, and Southern Shears was like a home game, he said.

Stratford will be one of three South Island shearers competing in the North vs South challenge at Gore, alongside Darin Forde and Angus Moore.

"It's a bit like when the Stags play in Invercargill. It's a love-hate relationship with the north."

As well as helping the south claim the title, Stratford has eyes for the South Island Shearer of the Year. The winner will be announced at the event and will take home $1000.

Southern Shears committee member Richard Pierce said Southland continued to produce good shearers like Stratford.

"We're Southlanders . . . we like to do things properly."

Gore always put on a good show with a large number of entries, he said.

"We get the most competitors, we are the end of the circuit, we have the best prizemoney and we have the numbers."

Fellow committee member Lani Arnott said organisers were expecting about 200 competitors during the two-day event, and 5000 spectators.

About 40 elite competitors from New Zealand and throughout the world would be competing in the open shearers and open woolhandlers sections, she said.

Southern Shears is the oldest shearing competition in New Zealand, and the last major competition before the Golden Shears in March.

"It's an important lead-up to Golden Shears, because it's probably one of the last that draws all top competitors in the country," Arnott said.

Welsh team members Gareth Lloyd Evans and Richard Jones are expected to contest the open competitions at Reefton and Gore.

The pair kickstarted the Elders Primary Wool Shearing Series in Rotorua at the weekend against Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick.

Stratford, who was unable to attend the first of the three tests against Wales, is expected to pair with Kirkpatrick for the remaining tests, in Balclutha and Pahiatua.

Hastings shearer Rowland Smith won the two weekend championships and helped Kirkpatrick to beat Wales in the first test of the three-test Shearing Series.

Smith won the Taihape show open final on Saturday, and the Agrodome Shears title at the Rotorua A & P Show on Sunday.

Southland Shearing and Wool Handling committee member Michael Hogan said Golden Shears competitors were expected to be at Gore.

"If you're not there at Gore, then you're leaving your preparation a bit late."

Veteran North Island shearer David Fagan said he and his son were sure to compete in the Southern Shears.

"It's one of the big events in the South Island, and it's only two weeks out from the Golden Shears."

The Gore event was a good chance to fine-tune skills before Masterton and see what the competition was like, Fagan said.

"It's about getting amongst it, not shying away."

Southern Shears will be held at the Excelsior Rugby Club rooms on February 15 and 16. Woolhandling is on Friday, followed by the speed shear and shearing competitions on Saturday.

The Southland Times