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2017 Shearing Champs News and Media Releases - Day One - February 8, 2017

French connection claims first victory at World shears - February 8, 2017

A small band of committed French enthusiasts has scored the first win of the 2017 World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill by winning a bid to stage the next championships in France in two years' time.

Following Northern Ireland's withdrawal, France was the only applicant at today's meeting of the Golden Shears World Council on the first-day of the current championships in ILT Stadium Southland, the southernmost venue used for the event since it was first held in England in 1977.

The next championships will be held in a 2500-seat marquee set-up on two soccer fields in the Central France town of Le Dorat on July 1-7, 2019, steering committee head Christophe Riffaud said.

The application was presented today by Mr Riffaud, who is from Le Dorat, France championships machine shearing representative Loic Leygonie, of Martel, and Julie Renard, of Limoges, with the help of France Ambassador to New Zealand Florence Jeanblanc-Risler, who is in Invercargill for the championships.

France becomes the 9th country to host the championships after England, New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Ireland, South Africa, Scotland and Norway.

With a sheep population of about 6 million, it has been a recent mover in shearing competition, highlighted by shearers Thimoleon Resneau and Daniel Boillot reaching the teams final at the 2012 World Championships in Masterton, NZ, and last year when Leygonie, Riffaud and Resneau were third in the Six-Nations Shearing Championship at the Royal Bath and West Show in England.

It was when France held the Six-Nations at Le Dorat in 2013 that the idea of staging a World Championships in the area was born.

"It was a really good weekend," said Leygonie. "Everybody was very happy, but they wanted to do something bigger. The next thing was the World Championships."

After investigating the idea, the enthusiasts formed a project committee in late 2015 and have since worked on developing partnerships needed to make it a reality.

"France is not a country where everybody knows a lot about shearing," he said. "So we did a lot of shearing demonstrations to get people interested in the project."

There hadn't been a lot of New Zealanders shearing in the area, but one who was Te Kuiti's Jack Fagan, son of shearing icon Sir David Fagan, and both had helped, he said.

From left, Loic Leygonie, Julie Renard and Christophe Riffaud celebrate France's success in winning the right to stage the 2019 World shearing and woolhandling championships in France.

Kiwi blades shearer steps up champs prelude - February 8, 2017

New Zealand blade shearer Tony Dobbs has taken the first jump on his opposition for the World title by with a top performance in the Southland All Nations blade shearing championship in Invercargill today.

Dobbs, a Fairlie farmer who came out of shearing retirement to shear for New Zealand at the 2014 World Championships in Ireland and finish third, is targeting defending World champion Mayenzeke and fellow South African blades master Bangani Joel who he must beat to win the big blade shearing title at the four-day World shearing and woolhandling championships which started with the All Nations events today and end with six World Championship finals on Saturday.

Today Dobbs lined up with the South Africans among 35 in the All Nations blade shearing heats, and topped the qualifiers, heading Shweni by almost seven points, with Joel, a World blade shearing record holder, qualifying third of 12 for the semi-finals.

Dobbs had a major victory over South Africa's best in a three-weay match also against Australia in Errowanbang, NSW, late in 2014 and now aims for a double in Invercargill, in the All Nations and in the

World Championship blade shearing event for which the heats are on Friday.

Results from the All Nations Blade Shearing Championship heats (2 sheep each, top 12 shearer to semi-final): Tony Dobbs (New Zealand) 17min 18.239sec, 32.412pts, 1; Mayenzeke Shweni (South Africa) 8min 44.383sec, 39.219pts, 2; Bangani Joel (South Africa) 9min 12.218sec, 40.611pts, 3; Ken French (Australia) 9min 28.691pts, 4; Shane Casserly ( Balclutha, NZ) 8min 19.788sec, 42.489pts, 5; Johnathan Dalla (Australia) 10min 1.935sec, 44.097pts, 6; Allen Gemmell (Rangiora, NZ) 9min 20.53sec, 44.527pts, 7; Noel Handley (Rangiora, NZ) 8min 4.558sec, 45.228pts, 8; Peter Heraty (Ireland) 10min 56.58sec, 46.329pts, 9; Peter Race (Twizel, NZ) 8min 19.343sec, 46.467pts, 10; Peter Casserly (Balclutha, NZ) 11min 33.693sec, 49.185pts, 11; Phil Oldfield (New Zealand) 9min 25.82sec, 49.291pts, 12.

Young shearers get chance on the World stage - February 8, 2017

A young Welsh shearer has thrown out the challenge to the young competitors in the World shearing and woolhandling championships support events by qualifying in first place for the Southland All Nations Intermediate Shearing semi-finals in Invercargill's ILT Stadium Southland.

Jonathan Rees, of Brecon and among dozens of young UK shearers in New Zealand for the season and to watch the World event, was one 56 in the Intermediate event that kicked-off the four-day woolfest today in front of a crowd which grew steadily from about 600 that watched the first sheep shorn just after 11am.

Based for part of the summer in Central Hawke's Bay, Rees was one of 12 to make the cut, including four from overseas.

The Southland All Nations provides competition in three shearing grades (Open, Senior and Intermediate), two woolhandling grades (Open and Senior) and a single blade shearing grade, the entree to the World Championships individual and teams machine shearing, blade shearing and woolhandling events..

While several less-experienced World Championships entrants competed in the Intermediate event, a chance to tune their gear ebfore the bigger challenges ahead, none made it through to the next of stage, leaving them to focus on the World Championship event starting late tomorrow.

Among the qualifiers are 2016 Golden Shears Junior shearing champion Sam Davison, of Masterton, and female shearers Brya Harrison, of Okaihau, Northland, and Dannevirke-based Anne-Lise Humstad, of Norway.

Results from the opening day: Shearing

All Nations Intermediate heats (2 sheep each, top 12 shearers for semi-final): Jonathan Rees (Wales) 4min 34.20sec, 19,21pts, 1; Wilton Weeks (Feilding) 3min 54.539sec, 20.227pts, 2; Sam Davison (Masterton) 4min 31.498sec, 21.075pts, 3; Tom Brewer (Invercargill) 5min 17.514sec, 21.376pts, 4; George Orlof (England) 3min 54.13sec, 21.707pts, 5; Jordan Hart (Blenheim) 4min 44.991sec, 21.75pts, 6; Brya Harrison (Okaihau) 4min 35.836sec, 22.292pts, 7; Anne-Lise Humstad (Norway) 5min 18sec, 23.4pts, 8; Mitchell Murray (Amberley) 3min 51.30sec, 23.565pts, 9; John James (Wales) 4min 31.808sec, 23.59pts, 10; Brndon Maguire-Ratima (Winton) 5min 11.762pts, 11; 24.088pts, 11; Jan Juppe (Germany) 4min 34.824sec, 25.191pts.

South Dakota last week, Invercargill this week - February 8, 2017

Woolhandler and Montana rancher Leann Brimmer could well be described as the rock around which the USA team at the 40th World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships is built.

As the 40th anniversary championships started in Invercargill's ILT Stadium today it was barely 24 hours since her arrival, into which she'd already managed half a day at work in a woolshed after a journey of over 49 hours since a departure delayed by her need to stage the US National shearing and woolhandling championships at the Black Hills Stock Show and Rodeo in Rapid City, South Dakota last week.

Joining team members including the championships' oldest competitor, 70-year-old blade shearer Kevin Ford, it's her fifth World Championships, but having worked in both New Zealand and Australia, not to mention a variety of other countries, she says she would have been in Invercargill whetrher she'd been in the team or not.

At the age of 42 she enjoys the work and the woolsheds more, although she is in Invercargill with some prospect of improving on her previos World Championships best of 14th at the Royal Welsh Show in 2010, five short of a place in the semi-finals.

"I don't handle the nerves well," she says. "I make a few mistakes."

One mistake she notes is in the championships' official programme which correctly records she's from Biddle, but is a little flatterring on the score of population of 61. "That's 16," she points out.

The number of stops on the trip from Rapid City wasn't that many less, entailing five flights: Rapid City-Denver, Denver -Los Angeles, Los Angeles-Sydney, Sydney-Christchurch, and, after trying some sleep in a six-hour stopover interrupted by a false alarm evacuation, Christchurch-Invercargill.

She arrived at 7.30am, yesterday, and headed straight for the woolshed.

She competes for the first time tomorrow iun the Southland All Nations woolhandling heats, the warm-up before the big event that leads to the deciding of six world titles in individual and teams machine shearing, blade shearing, and woolhandling, in front of a crowd of over 3000 expected for the final night on Saturday.

World Champs: More's gone right than wrong - February 8, 2017

The 40th anniversary World shearing and woolhandling championships start today in Invercargill with organising committee chairman and former champion shearer Tom Wilson balancing the odds firmly in the favour of success over the next four days.

"There's more that has gone right than has gone wrong," he said today in ILT Stadium Southland, the msjor sports venue which has been transformed into a $40 million woolshed, where about 4500 sheep will be shorn, watched by thousands ranging from people who've never seen shearing to World champions dating back to when the shearing-only first World championships were held in England in 1977.

The championships started with the heats of the Southland All Nations, warm-up events with the dual purpose of providing competition for the 116 World Championships machine shearers, blade shearers and woolhandlers chasing the six major titles and opportunities for other shearers and woolhandlers to take part in some competition while they're in town.

The fifth held in New Zealand with all four previously in Masterton, the home of the Golden Shears, the championships are the culmination of about three years work since the idea of a World Championships in the South Island was floated shortly before the 2014 championships in Gorrie, Ireland.

The hopefuls won the bid with Christchurch as the venue, but it soon became evident that guaranteeing the required supply of sheep at the right time could be a problem, a problem solved after members read a report after Joseph Parker's mini-fight in the stadium in July 2015 extolling the venue's virtues and the active drive to fill it with more events.

"I was down on the doorstep of Venture Southland within a few days, in half an hour we were in touch with the stadium manager, and he said, Let's do it," recalled Mr Wilson, who won two World titles - individually and asa team - in the colours of native Scotland but who has now lived in New Zealand many years.

"Let's do it," he repeated. "That's been the whole attitude ever since."

Mr Wilson was unable to state the expected cost of running the championships, but the event has been made possible with major funding of $380,000 plus that of commercial sponsors.

The major funding comprised a major events grant of $260,000 from Governement's Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), and $40,000 from each of the Invercagill City Council, the Invercargill Licensing Trust and the Community Trust of Southland.

While the hard-earned MBIE grant was pivotal, Mr Wilson said the event could hsave gone ahead without it. "It would have been at a smaller location," he said. "This is good, the sheep are here, it's the middle of the season," he said.

It's taken a huge amount of volunteer participation, including the transporting of a six-stand shearing stand used for the Otago championships in Balclutha's War Memorial Hall on Saturday and it's re-erection starting in the ILT Stadium the next day.

First onto the board a tick after 11am today were six shearers, all from overseas, in the first heat of the All Nations Intermediate Championship, immediately highlighting the diversity of the 32 shearing nations taking part.

On Stand One on the stage built about the size of that of a major rock concert, was Elis Ifans, of Wales, joined along the board by Huques Lachaune, of France, Arsenio Sahiueque, Argentina, Masakuni Osawada, of Japan, George Orlof, of England, and Huw Rees, from Wales, only Sahiueque and Osawada being entries in the World Championships to follow.

They were new conditions to some, Sahiueque forgetting to clock-off with the button beside his stand and Osawada a determined battler taking the opportunity of a shearer keen to learn, his 57 sheep shorn on his first day in New Zealand last week being as many as he'd shorn in Japan all season.

About 600 specators saw the opening blows, most likely to be among the more than 3000 expected to watch the six finals on Saturday night.

The first of the World Championship events are tomorrow afternoon, being the heats in the first of three preliminary rounds of the glamour event, the machine shearing.

World shearing and woolhandling championships committee chairman Tom Wilson in ILT Stadium Southland today shortly before the start of the 40th anniversary event.

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