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Young woolhandler prepares for World Champs

Article and image courtesy of Brittany Pickett - The Southland Times.

UPDATE - NOW INCLUDES VIDEO OF CHARIS BELOW

Central Otago 11-year-old Charis Morrell will represent Switzerland in the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships in Invercargill next month.

Morrell may be young, but she has grown up with a family of champion shearers and woolhandlers, as the daughter of former New Zealand shearer Dion Morrell, and Swiss-born Gabriela Schmidt-Morrell.

The Alexandra schoolgirl and her mum are gearing up to compete in Switzerland's woolhandling team at the championships.

Dion said Switzerland was not putting a team into the world championships until a few months ago.

"So we put a team together to get some interest back in Switzerland. There's a chance the world champs will be in France in three years time."

Charis and Schmidt-Morrell will be competing alongside machine shearers Andy Meister and Simon Zaugg, both of who were farmers in their home country.

Charis, who is also working towards getting her black belt in karate, is excited to go up against some of the world's best woolhandlers next month.

"I thought it was quite exciting because because I would just be carrying on with the family tradition of woolhandling and shearing."

Her next goal is to learn to shear a sheep.

When she told other pupils at St Gerards School she would be representing Switzerland in the world champs, she said they did not believe her at first.

The family is treating the competition as a bonding experience.

Schmidt-Morrell said it was great to be able to compete in a world event with Charis, despite the fact they still had a lot of learning to do.

But Schmidt-Morrell and Charis are not going into the competition without a little help from their family.

Charis' older sister Pagan Karauria, who just missed out on a spot in the New Zealand team, is teaching the pair as much as she can before the championships roll around.

"It's just a lot of fun when you're learning how to throw it."

She has them competing in woolhandling competitions leading up to the main event, which brought them to the junior woolhandling section at the Northern Southland Community Shears on Friday.

At the competition New Zealand team member and woolhandler Joel Henare, of Gisborne, continued his recent domination of the northern Southland competition, winning his third open title in four years, thanks to a strong all-round performance in the final.

Henare said he had been trying to get his mentality right to handle the pressure, and was also trying to get used to Southland wool.

"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 similar to strike out of the blue so that when you do get to world champs you're more familiar with handling that kind of circumstance."

Gore woolhandler Sharon Tuahakaraina won the senior competition, with Chenelle Hiri Waihape, of Mataura winning the junior section.

New Zealand team member Nathan Stratford, of Invercargill, won the open shearing finals at the Northern Southland Community Shears long wool event. Scottish shearer Stuart Davidson won the senior final, English shearer George Olof won the intermediate and Gore farmer James Dickson won the junior final.
Watch video of Charis in action at the Northern Southland Shears at Castlerock on Friday 20 January 2017. Video courtesy of Pilar Castro (Facebook)