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Henare and Stratford sound warnings

New Zealand team members Nathan Stratford and Joel Henare sounded a warning to other World Championship hopefuls ahead of next month's 40th anniversary championships in Invercargill following comprehensive wins in the open shearing and woolhandling competitions at the Northern Southland Community Shears held in Five Rivers yesterday.

Henare (Gisborne) continued his recent domination at the event, winning his third open title in four years, thanks to a strong all-round performance in the final. Henare was first to raise his hand, over 24 seconds before his nearest rival and backed that up with the fewest board, oddments and fleece penalties to beat home Milton's Tia Potae by nearly 23 points. Mataura's Candy Hiri claimed third place.

It's another important step in Henare's World Championship preparation.

"These events are very important because it gets you in to competition mode. You want to do well and you are here to win but a lot of it is a dummy run for World Champs. In some ways, you want a few curve-balls thrown at you, an over-sized fleece or something that will strike out of the blue so that when you do get to World Champs you're more familiar with handling that kind of circumstance," he said.

"I've been doing a lot of mental work, just trying to get my mentality right to handle the pressure and trying to get used to the type of wool here in Southland to get my head around the Southland crossbreds," Henare said.

Similarly, Nathan Stratford claimed his third Northern Southland title and his first since 2014 with a degree of comfort yesterday.

He completed the 20-sheep final with the fourth fastest time of the five finalists but relied on outstanding quality, earning minimal penalties to claim victory by almost 7 points from Brett Roberts and Paerata Abraham.

Stratford was super consistent all afternoon, finishing second overall in the heats, first in the quarters and a close third in the semi-finals, before blitzing his 20 full wool Romney ewes to provide another confidence booster, 20 days out from his World Championship debut in his hometown.

"There's room for improvement and it's all about fine tuning now. The training is paying off. I wasn't as fatigued as a normally would be after a final. They were big sheep today and they weren't that friendly so I am happy, particularly with my quality," he said.

"These shows are very important for me. You know where you are after a 20-sheep hit-out and know where your competitors are. You can't go into it blind," Stratford said.

The southern circuit switches to Winton today for the annual Southland Shears and New Zealand Crossbred Lamb Championships along with Golden Bay A&P Show in Takaka and the Wairoa A&P Show in Hawke's Bay.

NORTHERN SOUTHLAND SHEARS RESULTS:
Open Woolhandling: 1st - Joel Henare 101.816, 2nd - Tia Potae 124.410, 3rd – Candy Hiri 154.754, 4th – Pagan Karauria 162.960.

Open Shearing: 1st – Nathan Stratford 63.9435, 2nd – Brett Roberts 70.572, 3rd – Paerata Abraham 70.8315, 4th – Troy Pyper 73.7015, 5th – Ivan Scott 74.978.