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Fagan favourite for 10th PGG Wrightson National - February 28, 2011

The TAB has made David Fagan a warm favourite to win a 10th national series crown in betting odds which were released today.

Fagan, who first won the title 25 years ago when healso won the first of his 16 Golden Shears Open titles, was quoted at $2.25 when the book for the PGG Wrightson National opened, with 2009 and 2010 winner Tony Coster quoted at $4.

Betting on the event will be open until Saturday morning, but will be suspended during the semi-finals, and reopened for the afternoon and evening before closing just before the final starts on the busy last night of the three-day 51st Golden Shears in Masterton.

The TAB is also operating odds on shearers to make the Top 3, completing a repeat of the options on the Golden Shears Open final, where there is also head-to-head betting on selected shearers among the favourites.

In a surprise move today the TAB also opened betting on shearers to make Saturday night's six-man Opoen final. John Kirkpatrick, a $2.20 favourite to win the event, was quoted at $1.10 to make the final.

Also opened today was the first-ever pool on woolhandling compoetition New Zealand, making Gisborne's Joel Henare favourite to win the Open woolhandling title for the first time.

PGG Wrightson National odds released today were: $2.25 David Fagan; $4 Tony Coster; $5 Nathan Stratford; $8 Grant Smith; $10 Cam Ferguson; $20 Dion King, Darin Forde; $30 Alton Devery, Angus Moore; $40 Adam Brausch; $50 Gavin Mutch, Paerata Abraham.

Kirkpatrick wins big in pre-Shears weekend - February 28, 2011

Johnny Kirkpatrick had his most successful pre-shears weekend when he won the Taumarunui Jamboree and Pahiatua Shears open finals on Friday and Sunday, sandwiching a third place in the Apiti YFC Sports final on Saturday.

But it was that beaten result which hollered most as he launched into Golden Shears week with 13 wins in 19 finals for the season to date, a warm favourite but with a new, serious challenger in the form of Far North gun Rowland Smith, who will this week attempt to emulate Kirkpatrick's achievement of being the only winner of the big title to have won two lower-grade Golden Shears titles.

"The young guys are coming at us from everywhere," said Kirkpatrick, the winner of the Golden Shears Open in 2002 and 2008 and runner-up a record seven times.

Smith had beaten icon David Fagan and Kirkpatrick in the Counties Shears six days earlier, and repeated the effort at Apiti where he added World Champion and reigning Golden Shears champion Cam Ferguson to the list.

Like Kirkpatrick, Ferguson and 2005 and 2007 Golden Shears Open champion Paul Avery, Smith shore in all three weekend finals to firmly announce his arrival as a regular in top Open company, in his fifth season since winning the senior title in Masterton in 2006.

It was at Apiti that Smith chose for his big test, finishing first in a five-man final with 15 sheep shorn in 12min 37sec, seven seconds ahead of Avery. Smith was also just six-hundredths of a point shy of posting the best quality points. The TAB reacted by dropping Smith's Golden Shears odds from 40-1 to 15-1.

Third off the board was Kirkpatrick, who otherwise put in two astounding performances in taking the weekend's other spoils. He shore 20 sheep in 15min 8.55sec at Taumarunui, beating Fagan by nine seconds but putting about a sheep around the rest, while he won another 20-sheep race at Pahiatua in 16min 30sec, and also posted the weekend's best Open-final board points of 0.75.

Matene Mason, of Masterton, won the senior finals at Taumarunui and Pahiatua, with Bevan Guy, of Kaeo, in charge at Apiti, Jack Fagan won Friday night's intermediate final but had to yield to 2010 Golden Shears junior champion and Southland shearer Brett Roberts for the rest of the weekend, while Horowhenua shearer Michael Rolston scored a rare pre-shears weekend treble in the Junior finals.

Taihape country school principal and 2008 World woolhandling champion Sheree Alabaster won the weekend's two Open woolhandling finals, at Taumarunui and Apiti, despite being six months pregnant, and beat Golden Shears favourite and reigning New Zealand champion Joel Henare, of Gisborne, and 2010 World teams champion partner Keryn Herbert, of Te Awamutu.

The senior woolhandling prizes were shared, with Rangi Barakat, of Waipawa, winning at Taumarunu, and Fiona Christiansen winning at Apiti, there was a maiden home-town winner in the junior final at Taumarunui won by Hutia Edwards,and the Apiti junior final was won by Kylie Laris, of Masterton.

Play together and stay together...Apiti open woolhandling finalists (from left) Sheree Alabaster, Keryn Herbert and Joel Henare watching the shearing finals.

Paul Avery on his way to third place at the Pahiatua Shears. He was fourth the previous day at Apiti, and fifth the day before that at Taumarunui.

Rowland Smith after winning the Apiti YFC Sports open final, beating David Fagan and John Kirkpatrick for the second time in six days, and also beating Cam Ferguson.

Fledgling commentator and open shearer Angus Moore at the mic between regulars Nuki Gordon and Koro Mullins during the Pahiatua Shears. Moore had also commentated at Taumarunui and Apiti.

Fagan set for crack at 10th national series title - February 28, 2011

Shearing icon David Fagan has lined-up a chance to become New Zealand's top multi-wools shearer for a 10th time by heading the qualifiers for the PGG Wrightson National during the Golden Shears in Masterton this week.

The 12 qualifiers-were named in Pahiatua yesterday after the last of five preliminary rounds throughout the country since the start of October.

In a swing against the trends of modern Open-class shearing competition, six are from the South Island , and only five from the North, although Scottish qualifier Gavin Mutch is based in the North Island .

They shear in the semi-finals on Saturday morning, with the top six contesting the final a few hours later, a short while before the Golden Shears Open final.

Fagan, 49, will be aiming for his 22nd final in the event, which incorporates the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown, first presented in 1973.

He first made the top six in 1984, the year he also qualified for the Golden Shears Open final for the first time, and won the National in 1986, 1988, 1992, 1995, 2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008, completing a National Final and Golden Shears Open Final double on five occasions.

David Fagan, pictured finishing fourth in last year's PGG Wrightson National shearing final. He is the top qualifier for this year's event, aiming to make the final for the 22nd time since his first in 1984, and aiming for a 10th win in the event.

The qualifiers include three other former winners in Southland veteran in four-times champion Darin Forde (1999, 2001, 2002, 2004), 2006 double winner Dion King, of Napier, and Rakaia shearer Tony Coster, the winner in the last two years.

Among the others is Waipawa shearer Cam Ferguson who reached both of the two big finals for the first time last year, winning the Golden Shears Open and finishing third in the National, a pointer to his eventual World Championship triumph in Wales .

To qualify, shearers were awarded points based on their placings in the heats of the compulsory first round New Zealand Merino championship in Alexandra, and the New Zealand Spring Shears in Waimate, the national corriedale championships at the Canterbury Show, the national lamb-shearing championships in Raglan and yesterday's Pahiatua Shears, on second-shear sheep.

Reverting to points based only on speed and quality, each semi-finalist will shear four merinos and four second-shear ewes, while the six in the final will each shear three merinos, three half-breds, three long-wool sheep, three second-shear ewes and three lambs. The fastest time for the 15 sheep in the current format introduced about 15 years ago is thought to have been the 16min 2.7sec shorn by Forde in 2002.

The PGG Wrightson National Shearing Series semi-finalists in order of qualifying are: David Fagan (Te Kuiti), Nathan Stratford (Invercargill), Grant Smith (Rakaia), Cam Ferguson (Waipawa), Alton Devery (Tuatapere), Tony Coster (Rakaia), Angus Moore (Ward), Darin Forde (Winton), Adam Brausch (Dannevirke), Gavin Mutch (Whangamomona and Scotland), Dion King (Napier), Paerata Abraham (Dannevirke).

Young gun Smith wins Counties Shears - February 20, 2011

World record breaking Far North shearer Rowland Smith nailed his Golden Shears hopes to the mast when he scored his second Counties Shears Open title at Pukekohe today.

Successfully defending a title he won last year, Smith had to rely on quality points to make up a small time-points deficit after the 20-sheep race was won by Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick, who had less than 24 hours earlier won the South Island Shearer of the Year and Southern Shears Open finals in Gore.

Ultimately Kirkpatrick had to settle for third today, with second-placing going to King Country veteran David Fagan, who had also made the trip north after shearing in both the finals at Gore the previous day. Smith's brother, Matthew, was fourth and Te Kuiti veteran Dean Ball was fifth.

Rowland Smith, the winner of the Golden Shears Junior title in 2004 and the senior title two years later, loomed as a genuine Open-class prospect last year when he was runner-up to Fagan in the New Zealand Open final in Te Kuiti, and is now seen as one of the most likely to succeed of the Open shearer who have not yet shorn in a Golden Shears Open final.

In January he and third brother shore a World ewes tally record in Hawke's Bay.

Two more Northland brothers, Bevan and Bryce Guy, of Kaeo, won the senior and junior finals at Pukekohe, while Fagan's son, Jack, won the intermediate title.

Kirkpatrick shear class again in new southern raid - February 20, 2011

Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick continued his relentless domination of the national shearing season with a payback double in the South Island Shearer of the Year and Southern Shears Open finals in Gore yesterday.

It took the 40-year-old's tally to 11 wins from 15 competitions, in which he has never been further back than third, and cemented further his favouritism for a third Golden Shears open title in Masterton in two weeks' time. He was a $2.50 favourite when the TAB opened betting last week.

Having been almost invincible in the South Island for several years, his wins yesterday were a pay-back after finishing third in each final last year, defending the trophies he had won 12 months earlier.

But no sooner was the mid-evening prizegiving over and Kirkpatrick was heading for the airport again, to fly to today's Counties Shears at Pukekohe.

Fellow Hawke's Bay Shearer Cam Ferguson, who last year won the Shearer of the Year title on his way to winning the Golden Shears and then the World Championships, was runner-up in both events, but both still had to contend with iconic King Country gun David Fagan, whose first Open win in Gore was in the Southern Shears final in 1983.

Yesterday Fagan was first off the board in the 20-sheep Shearer of the Year final, taking 17min 4.16sec, but with Kirkpatrick and Ferguson each less than 2.4 seconds later. It was different in the 18-sheep Southern Shears final, with Fagan more than a sheep down as Kirkpatrick finished first in 14 minutes 53.23 seconds, 11 seconds ahead of nearest challenger Jason Win, from Ikamatua, near Reefton.

Once the judging was completed, Fagan had to settle for fifth in each final, 10 years after his last wins at Gore, the double in 2001.

Once the judging was completed, Kirkpatrick had claimed the Shearer of the Year title by 1.1pts from Ferguson who was almost nudged-aside by Southland veteran Darin Forde, the winner in 1995, 1999 and 2003.

Invercargill shearer Nathan Stratford was fourth, and also finished third in the Southern Shears final, in which Win claimed fourth prizemoney.

During the busy last few hours of the 46th Southern Shears, Ferguson and Fagan also shore New Zealand to victory over the United Kingdom team of Gavin Mutch and Ian Montgomery in the second test of a three-test series, and the South Island regained some mana by winning the Gore leg of an annual inter-island shearing and woolhandling series, the next leg of which is at Te Kuiti in April.

There was further good news for the South Island when Hemi Power, of Gore, scored an upset win in a 12-sheep senior final, in which 2010 winner Matene Mason, of Masterton, was second. Top South Island seniors Philip Rangiwai, of Mataura, and Caleb Godsiff, of Pleasant Point, were third and fourth, and prolific Far North shearer Tipene te Whata failed to make the six-man final.

Brett Roberts and Jake Rangiwai, of Mataura, provided a home district quinella in the intermediate final and 19-year-old Tui Pene, from Waipawa and a workmate of Ferguson in Central Hawke's Bay, added the Junior title to the Otago title he won in Balclutha seven days earlier. After getting the quality points to take the nod ahead of faster finishes Alec Smith and Hararei Te Whata, both from Southland, he reckoned his week-and-a-bit in the South was enough time away from home, but then also flew north to compete today at Pukekohe. Matthew Spence, of Gisborne, also scored well from quality points to edge past the Southlanders and claim second prize.

In the woolhandling on Friday, Gisborne's Joel Henare added the open title to that he won at Balclutha a week earlier, Sharni Graham, of Masterton, won the senior title, and, ironically, the oldest woolhandling final winner was 23-year-old Southlander Natasha Waikato, scoring her first Junior victory.

The Southern Shears attracted 93 shearing entries and 65 woolhandlers, with many, apart from the competition at Pukekohe today, heading for other events at Taumarunui, Apiti and Pahiatua in the Central North Island next week before the annual pilgrimage to Masterton.

Reigning New Zealand open woolhandling champion Joel Henare, 19, of Gisborne, winning regaining the Southern Shears open woolhandling title in Gore. Henare won the title in 2009 but was not in last year's final. Having won the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year final in Balclutha and the Southern Shears open title in successive weeks he is now the favourite to win his first Golden Shears open in title in Masterton on March 5, having been runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

Busy scene during the Inter-Island challenge won by the South Island in Gore.

Southern Shears shearing quality prize winners (from left) Matthew Spence (junior), Brett Roberts (intermediate), Tipene Te Whata (senior) and Nathan Stratford (Invecargill)

Southern Shears junior finalists with the Kaiwera Downs sponsor's representative at left were Tui Pene, Matthew Spence, Alec Smith, Hararei Te Whata, Angel Te Ahuru and Simon Rabbidge.

Southern Shears senior winner Hemi Power speaks to the crowd, with support from daughter Maaka.

PICTURES: DOUG LAING Shearing Sports New Zealand

The test teams at Gore. From left New Zealand manager Dave Carr and shearers David Fagan and Cam Ferguson, abd the UK team of Gavin Mutch and Ian Montgomery and manager Tom Wilson.

Gisborne teenager shoots for gold after second southern wins - February 18, 2011

Gisborne woolhandler Joel Henare made it two out of two in the countdown to his bid to win a Golden Shears title for the first time when he won the open woolhandling final on the first day of the 46th Southern Shears in Gore today.

Henare, who last weekend won the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year title at the Otago championships in Balclutha for the fourth time in a row although aged just 19, is now expected to start favourite to win the big one in Masterton on March 5, after being runner-up in 2009 and 2010.

His Gore results hadn't matched those of Balcluth, and it was a triumph for Henare after failing to reach the final last year in defence of a title he won the previous year.

Today he scored by a wide margin from runner- up and New Zealand World champion team member Keryn Herbert, of Te Awamutu, who had also been second at Balclutha. Third was Bernadette Forde, of Tuatapere,

Today's final was over full-wool fleeces, each handler working two shearers, which provided a tough contest.

Henare had easily the best fleece points with the judges and, never lost for words and having been the stadium commentator for some of the heats, he said after winning the event: "It was hard with all the stains we had to take out, but it was a good challenge."

The senior final was won by 19-year-old Sharni Graham, beating fellow Masterton woolhandler Cushla Gordon by just nine points, with Kyle Wihongi, of Hastings, beating the only South Island in the final, Casey Howat, of Balclutha..

Ironically, the oldest winner of the day was the new junior champion, 23-year-old Southlander Natasha Waikato.

Although having been woolhandling for eight years, she competed for the first time only last October, and today's triumph was her first win. She did not make the final of her grade at Balclutha last weekend.

The three grades attracted 65 woolhandlers, and competition when the Shears end tomorrow will focus on the four shearing grades, including the feature Open final, along with the South Island Shearer of the Year final, an interisland match, and an international between New Zealand World champion team of Cam Ferguson and David Fagan and UK representatives Gavin Mutch and Ian Montgomery.

Results of the woolhandling events at the 46th Southern Shears in Gore today (February 18):


Open final (2 shearers, 5 fleeces): Joel henare (Gisborne) 230.27pts, 1; Keryn Herbert (Te Awamutu) 319.05pts, 2; Bernadette Forde (Tuatapere) 332.24pts, 3.

Senior final (4 fleeces): Sharni Graham (Masterton) 184.834pts, 1; Cushla Gordon (Masterton) 191.868pts, 2; Kyle Wihongi (Hastings) 339.504pts, 3; Casey Howat (Balclutha) 372.948pts, 4.

Junior final (3 fleeces): Natasha Waikato (Tuatapere) 140.334pts, 1; Ebony Turipa (Gore) 150.092pts, 2; Denise Murray (Alexandra) 186.348pts, 3; Jenna Holland (Tuatapere) 230.17pts, 4.

Kirkpatrick a golden punt as Shears loom - February 17, 2011

TAB bookmakers have thrown out a challenge to South Island shearers to get into the form book in opening Golden Shears odds more than a fortnight ahead of the World famous championships in Masterton.

Just two South Island shearers have been named in the first 12, who are headed by prolific winner and 2002 and 2008 champion and Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick, paying $2.50. Reigning champion and World champion Cam Ferguson, from Waipawa, is the second favourite paying $3.50.

Kirkpatrick has reached the finals of all 13 events he's contested this season, winning nine and being runner-up and third-placed twice each, while Ferguson has won three finals, including bringing Kirkpatrick's early unbeaten run to an end at Levin last month.

The only South Islanders among the 12 highest rated are Nathan Stratford, from Invercargill, and Darin Forde, of Winton. Stratford, paying $30, has been in the final three times, and was fourth last year, but Forde, paying $50, has not been in the final since 2004. Each has won one final this season.

The TAB has again named one prospective newcomer among the six it considers most likely to win the six-man final on March 5, as it did last year when Ferguson won after reaching the final for the first time. This time the left-field pick is Dannevirke shearer Adam Brausch, who has this season scored his first two Open-class wins after five seasons of trying. He is fifth favourite, paying $17.

The TAB is also keeping a close eye on King Country icon David Fagan, who at the age of 49 is aiming to reach the final for a 25th time. With five wins throughot the country this season, he is a $5 shot to win the title for a 17th time. Similar attention is being paid to 2005 and 2007 winner Paul Avery, who has won two competitions this season and who last weekend, at the age of 44, was third in the two-day classification of the Coast to Coast, and was first veteran. He is paying $8 to win at the Golden Shears.

Caution also surrounds 2006 winner and Napier shearer Dion King, who this weekend defends the Southern Shears Open title in Gore. He is sixth favourite for the Golden Shears.

Most of the top shearers will be at the Southern Shears tomorrow and on Saturday, including Kirkpatrick who last Saturday won the Otago championships final in Balclutha.

Also in Gore will be the country's top woolhandlers, soon to start a series culminating next season in selection for the 2012 World championships in Masterton.

Big 'ups' to Paul Avery - February 15, 2011

Shearing Sports New Zealand congratulates 2008 World shearing champion and 2005 and 2007 Golden Shears Open champion Paul Avery who on Friday and Saturday not only realised a dream by finishing the Speights Coast to Coast two-day event in the South Island, but exceeded any expectations by being the first veteran and finishing third overall.

Maintaining the position he held at the end of the first day, the 44-year-old Taranaki farmer completed the 243km of cycling, kayaking and running across the South Island in an elapsed time of 12hr 30min 3sec. The winner, 29-year-old Lower Hutt builder James Coulbrough, clocked 11hr 25min and the second veteran took 13hr 44min.

Resting at Blenheim on his way back to the farm near Stratford, he reckoned he was recovering well enough to be able to shear again on Thursday and start a Golden Shears buildup by competing at the Counties Shears on Sunday.

The winner of the Stratford Open in in November, second in the national lambshearing final at Raglan in January, and winner of the North Island Open six days before starting the supreme cross-country test, he expects also to shear at the Taumarunui Jamboree, the Apiti Sports and the Pahiatua Shears before the annual trip to Masterton.

Full story later.

Kirkpatrick gets grip on shears favouritism - February 14, 2011

Napier shearer John Kirkpatrick has become a firm favourite to win the Golden Shears Open title next month after winning the prestigious Otago Championship in Balclutha yesterday (Saturday) for the fifth time in seven years.

In one of the faster finals in the 51 years of the championships, Kirkpatrick had to put on one of his best show to regain the title from last year's winner and fellow Hawke's Bay gun Cam Ferguson, of Waipawa, who was runner-up.

Fastest in the final for at least the fifth year in a row, Kirkpatrick finished his 20 sheep in 16min 54.13sec to beat reigning Golden Shears and World champion Ferguson off the board by almost nine seconds. He also produced marginally the better job to seal a win by six-tenths of a point. Reefton shearer Jason Win was 3.7pts away in a creditable third place, with Alton Devery, of Tuatapere, and Angus Moore, of Ward, fourth and fifth.

King Country icon David Fagan, who won his first open title at Balclutha 28 years ago, skipped the event to be part of a dream result at the Te Puke show where he and son Jack won the Open and Intermediate titles respectively. It was the first they'd both won titles at the same show.

Kirkpatrick, whose 100th career Open-class win was at Balclutha two years ago, hasn't finished further back than third in any competition in New Zealand this season, and a record of nine wins for the season includes being unbeaten in the South Island. Missing part of the New Zealand season while working in Australia, he has won the New Zealand Corriedale title at the Canterbury Show and the Central Hawke's Bay Shears in successive days in November, his first national lambshearing title at Raglan, the Northern Southland Community Shears full-wool title at Lumsden and the national crossbred lambs title at Winton in successive days last month, the Taihape A and P Show, the Tapawera Show near Nelson, and last week's Aria Sports in the King Country.

The senior title on Saturday was won by 2009 Otago intermediate title winner Tipene Te Whata, of Tautoro in the Far North, prolifice Southland teenager Brett Roberts, of Mataura, won the intermediate finals, and Hawke's Bay youngster Tui Pene, of Waipawa, won the junior final, a week after winning the North Island Championships junior final in Marton.

Gisborne's Joel Henare won the New Zealand Woolhandler of the Year open title for the fourth year in a row. In an all North Island trifecta, World champion team member Keryn Herbert, of Te Awamutu, was runner-up, Rocky Hape-Taite, of Dannevirke, was third, and fourth was Pagan Rimene, of Masterton.The senior woolhandling final was won by Krystal Wilson, of Hastings, and the junior title by Erana Smith, of Ruatoria.

Herbert turned the tables on Henare in the South Island Open circuit final, with Juliette Lyon, of Alexandra, winning the circuit's senior final and Maiden Elers, of Mataura, the junior honours.

The Otago Championhips woolpressing title was won by Milton-based Mark Smith and Kelvin Bassett, and the pair are expected to go to Masterton next mnth to help mark the 25th anniversary of pressing competition at the Golden Shears.

At Te Puke, the senior shearing title was won by Tysson Hema, of Waipukurau, and the junior title by David Gordon, of Masterton.

Shearing great Ray Alabaster dies - February 04, 2011

The sheep shearing scene across New Zealand and throughout the World is mourning the loss of former great Ray Alabaster who died at his Taihape home on Wednesday February 2.

Mr Alabaster, who was 65, will be farewelled in a funeral starting on Monday starting at 1pm at the Taihape Shearing Pavilion, where the annual Taihape Sports Shears were held just last weekend. He was unable to attend the championships because of ill-health.

He competed as a teenager at the first Golden Shears in 1961 and became one of the greatest shearers to compete at Masterton's iconic event without winning its coveted Open title, reaching the six-man, 20-sheep final nine times from 1971 to 1981.

He was runner-up to two-times winners Norm Blackwell and Martin Ngataki in 1974 and 1979 respectively, and third in 1978 to inaugural World champion Roger Cox, when less than six-tenths of a point covered the first four placings.

In the year of his last final there were strong hopes of a dream result when he was top qualifier of the 12 for the semi-finals, but he had to settle for sixth in the showdown won by Ivan Rosandich. He was to finally achieve victory on Masterton's famous War Memorial Stadium board in Masterton two years later when he and Rei Rangiawha won the Golden Shears Maori-Pakeha teams event.

He also represented New Zealand in two transtasman shearing tests, in 1979, in Masterton and in the Victorian town of Euroa, where Australian shearing identity Bernie Walker in 1983 penned Just a yard of purple ribbon, an ode to the nine men who had shared the 23 Golden Shears Open titles to that time - with Ray Alabaster the only non-winner to rate a mention.

A man of classic modesty, he would say it would have been nice to have won the Open, but alot of World-class shearers had never made the final, and he was one of the lucky ones.

He was also known for his woolshed tallies as a young shearer, firstly taking part in a five-stand an unofficial World record north of Gisborne. Aged just 17, he contributed more than 300 of the 2133 ewes shorn in the nine hours.

Then in late 1969 he led his own gang to an official four-stand record, with 417 of the 1562 shorn that day in a shed near Waiouru.

Having left school to work on the family farm at the age of 14, he became a long-time contractor in the Taihape area, and since his competitive days had maintained a strong association with the sport, becoming a judge along with wife Libby, who officiates at woolhandling events.

Ray Alabaster, shearing great

The pair's daughter, schoolteacher Sheree Alabaster, is one of the country's top woolhandlers, winning the World individual and teams titles in Norway in 2008. Last year the couple were in Wales to see their daughter come second in her individual title defence and win a second teams title.

In a tribute to Mr Alabaster, Shearing Sports New Zealand chairman John Fagan said: "It's a huge loss. He's one of the greats of the shearing sports and our industry. We will miss him. Our thoughts are very much with Libby and Sheree.."

He described Mr Alabaster as "one of the old school who wanted to go farming and shore his way into a farm.

"He loved his farm and he loved the farming life," Mr Fagan said.

His family had been very much involved in the competition scene, and Mr Fagan said one highlight had been catching-up with Mr Alabaster in Wales watching Sheree.

"Watching his daughter compete was a great part of his later life," he said. "Wales was a proud for moment for both Ray and Libby."

© Shearing Sports NZ 2011
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