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7 March 2022
Wool Street Journal

Wool Street Journal: Favourite Nathan Stratford won 50th National Shearing Circuit final 

They have shorn at the Golden Shears in Masterton for 48 years until pandemic-based cancellations of the Golden Shears in the last two summers, the final of the PGG Wrightson Vetmed series was shifted to Armidale Merino Stud at Gimmerburn.  
Incorporating the McSkimming Memorial Triple Crown, which was first presented in 1973 to find New Zealand’s top shearer across the breeds and types from fine-wool merino to crossbred lambs, it was the first time the final had been held in the South Island. 

Stratford, the 2014 winner and from Invercargill, went into the finals day with the No 1 ranking among 12 shearers from points across five qualifying rounds throughout the curtailed season and was the TAB favourite, shearing his 18th final in the event and now with 74 Open-final wins, all more than the rest of the qualifiers put together. Describing himself as ageing – he is in his 40s and in his 25th year in the Open grade – Stratford said there would be a time when it’s time to “button off”, but shearing the competitions is a “disease” he can’t shrug off. 
“Once you start, you can’t stop,” said Stratford, who says in most seasons he’d do “20,000kms easy” on the road chasing the shows, which will get some relief with a prize including a year’s lease of a Hyundai Santa Fe. Also, there were cash and voucher prizes – but not enough to cover the costs of competing - and selection in the New Zealand trans-Tasman series team if a series is held. 

The finals started with two semi-final heats of six shearers, after which, uniquely all six in the faster second heat qualified for the final soon afterwards, over 20 sheep – five merino wethers, five half-bred long ewes, five second-shear ewes and five lambs. The challenge was first thrown out by Masterton shearer Paerata Abraham, who was the top qualifier for the final and had the fastest time, of 23min 14.8sec. 

It was an indicator the final would be one of the longest on record in New Zealand shearing, with Abraham on Stand 1 first off the board in 27min 22.1sec. 
Having led the race all the way, Abraham pipped Stratford (Stand 5) by just 0.78sec, but the southerner had the best quality points, both on the board and in the pens, and won by 2.2165pts, from Parnassus shearer Hugh De Lacy, who also had better quality points. 
Abraham was third, Jack Fagan, of Te Kuiti fourth, Ringakaha Paewai, of Gore, was fifth, and sixth was Willy McSkimming, a grandson of Fred McSkimming and the first of the family to contest the final – albeit the rank outside on the TAB odds. 
There were surprise eliminations in the semi-finals, most notably defending champion Leon Samuels of Invercargill, who stepped up to be Stratford’s pen-boy in the final. 

Results from the PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit finals at Armidale Station, Gimmerburn, on Saturday, March 5, 2022:  

Semi-finals (16 sheep): 
Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 23min 14.8sec, 81.74pts, 1;
Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 23min 53.84sec, 83.1295pts, 2;
Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 23min 44.77sec, 83.8635pts, 3;
Hugh De Lacy (Parnassus) 23min 59.02sec, 4.952pts, 4;
Ringakaha Paewai (Gore) 24min 28.86sec, 88.193pts, 5;
Willy McSkimming (Oamaru) 25min 6.99sec, 88.2245pts, 6;
Brett Roberts (Mataura) 26min 9.55sec, 90.7275pts, 7;
Leon Samuels (Invercargill) 25.53.92sec, 90.821pts, 8;
Aaron Haynes (Feilding) 27min 47.11sec, 96.1055pts, 9;
David Gordon (Masterton) 26min 43.77sec, 96.4385pts, 10;
Lionel Taumata (Gore) 27min 43.77sec, 100.3135pts, 11;
James Ruki (Te Kuiti) 27min 49.12sec, 100.4435pts, 12. 

PGG Wrightson Vetmed National Shearing Circuit final (20 sheep – 5 merino wethers, five half-bred longwools, five second-shear, five lambs):

Nathan Stratford (Invercargill) 26min 22.97sec, 88.9985pts, 1;
Paerata Abraham (Masterton) 26min 22.19sec, 93.7095pts, 2;
Hugh De Lacy (Parnassus) 27min 36.3sec, 94.315pts, 3;
Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti) 27min 50.05sec, 97.7525pts, 4;
Ringakaha Paewai (Gore) 27min 29.89sec, 98.5945pts, 5;
Willy McSkimming (Oamaru) 29min 15.22sec, 100.861pts, 6. 

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