What is being called shearing's closet thing to a grand slam kicked off in Balclutha today with the Otago Shearing and New Zealand Woolhandling Championships.
Shearing Sports New Zealand spokesperson Doug Laing said it consisted of four big open finals over consecutive weekends finishing with the Golden Shears on March 1.
Two of New Zealand's leading hopes for keeping New Zealand's woolhandling world team record intact will also be there to continue their charge for national selection, Mr Laing said. Joel Henare of Gisborne and Keryn Herbert of Te Awamutu are clear leaders in the series so far, from which the top eight will face off at the Golden Shears.
They will be competing for the title New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year, which Henare won five times before being beaten by Milton's Tia Potae last year.
Woolhandling had a long and proud heritage in Otago, Mr Laing said.
With the open finals scheduled for tomorrow, other highlights of the two-day event include the speed shear tonight and the New Zealand vs Wales shearing test match tomorrow.
Rowland Smith and Tony Coster will represent New Zealand. Coster has taken part in more than 50 finals over 20 years of competing, while Smith is the reigning Golden Shears and New Zealand open champion.
The pair, who are up against Welshmen Gareth Daniel and Richard Jones, will be looking for payback after a 3-1 loss in Wales last July.
- The Southland Times