Two South Canterbury shearers are frontrunners for New Zealand's world shearing and woolhandling championships team.
After an 18-year retirement from competition, 1992 blade shearing world champion Tony Dobbs is ahead of the pack in the quest to make the two-man team, leading the national standings by a point and 10 points clear of the shearer in third.
He was convinced by a friend to enter the Waimate blade shearing competition, where he placed fourth. "I thought if I did a bit of training, I might be in the hunt."
He has since placed consistently, including first at the Oxford A and P show last week and at the Christchurch competition.
"It's been 18 years since I sheared at the New Zealand shearing champs in Christchurch. It was the week my daughter was born, and now she's sitting in the crowd as an 18-year-old."
In preparation for his comeback, the Fairlie farmer finds time to perfect his technique, taking 20 sheep at a time, making sure not to do any second cuts or nicks.
He said he is confident about making the team but anything could happen at the final qualifier, the Mackenzie Shears, in front of his home crowd on April 21.
Also in line to make the blades team is Albury's Mike McConnell, who lies a point behind Dobbs.
McConnell said he is looking forward to the eighth and final qualifier and is confident.
He has been on the blade shearing competition circuit for "quite a few years" and represented New Zealand at the 2012 world championships.
He is happy at the prospect of being in the team with Dobbs, who use to be his shearing instructor.
"We should go pretty well as a team. It's good to go with someone I know outside of comps as it helps to relax."
If the two make the blades team they will join machine shearers Rowland Smith, of Hastings, and John Kirkpatrick, of Napier, and woolhandlers Joel Henare, of Gisborne, and Veronica Goss, of Kimbolton, for the championships in Ireland in May.
- The Timaru Herald