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A chat with Mel Morris of Australia

Mel Morris is lining up for her third World Championships next month. The Tasmanian woolhandler is a trainer for Australian Wool Innovation and you can tell how good she is at her job by some of her thoughts on how she is preparing for the 2017 World Championships.

We caught up with her at the Northern Southland Community Shears in Castlerock last week.

Q. Mel, a couple of weeks out, how are you feeling?

A. Good. I feel well. The body is going well so I've just got to get a bit more practice in and I'll be right.

Q. Preparation-wise what have you done leading in to these World Champs before coming out and then with you just arriving in New Zealand?

A. I've been doing a lot of endurance training. I've been doing a lot of long distance bike riding and lots of walking. I'm not a jogging and running kind of person. It doesn't go well with me. It's been about being able to go hard out for that 15 to 30-minute period.

I was here in September honing my skills then, went back and made the Aussie team and I've come back early to get back into it because it's quite a different set-up. It's similar to home but it's a bit more intense and a bit more wool prep so it's good to come back. Dion Morrell and Pagan (Karauria) and Gabby (Schmidt-Morrell) have been great bringing me in to the team and giving me the practice I need.

Q. Nice work. So, you've been working for Dion?

A. Yeah, in September when I was here and I've come back although we've been rained off and we haven't had great weather.

Q. And between now and Champs is it fine-tuning or what is the plan?

A. Yes, just fine-tuning because we've got second shear as well so I've been practicing on second shear and our change. Now it's more about the mind, getting the mind tweaked and ready. Where to slow up, where to speed up, where to find time. We've got the skills we just need to hone them.

Q. And there's some big bulky fleeces you're going to be dealing with.

Oh yeah! Just got to keep those arms in. It will be good. There's some great reps coming over. I know quite a few of the team members from other countries from previous years so it's a good line-up and it should be really, really good competition. I'm looking forward to it.

Q. For you, expectation-wise what are your thoughts?

A. Being the two wool types, full-wool and second shear, that is really going to open the door for anyone. The difference will be how experienced people are on second shear and full wool. Then you've got to mash it together for the semis and if you make the semis you'll roll through full wool on to second shear.

There's a lot in it and there's a lot of girls and guys experienced on one wool type or the other. It's all going to come down to how calm you are and your preparation for the change.

Q. It's that mental side of things that is so important, isn't it?

A. Definitely. The mind games and you are your own worst enemy so, if you let that little word doubt get in your head then he can ruin everything. You've got to keep him out and just be confident but not cocky and just roll with what comes without over-thinking it. You know what you're doing so just focus.

Q. Give us your backstory in the industry. I know talking to your woolhandling team mate Sophie Huf before Christmas she is delighted to have someone with your experience alongside her.

A. Yeah me and Sophie are good mates so it worked out really well.

I suppose I've been chasing woolhandling shows for quite a few years now and competing. My first show was in 2005. I just fell into it and it is sort of an addiction, you just go. You improve your base around the world. You can touch base with anyone now anywhere around the world and you'll get a job.

It improves your skills and you're bringing other people into your area as well so it's pretty good and I've got into the teaching and training side of it. So, I don't know I seem to have got on the world circuit. I've been fortunate enough to put the work in and to get in the team when it's the World Champs.

This will be my third World Champs so I've got a little bit of experience but the first two were in the Northern hemisphere, so this will be my first one down in the south.

I feel like I'm fully prepped and I'm ready to go and have a bit of fun as well. You can't forget that. As soon as you take the fun out of it, it becomes all business and that's when it all falls apart.

Q. Tell us more about the training. You do that as a day job back home?

A. I wool class for a local contractor but I also do woolhandling training for AWI in Tassie (Tasmania). It's a good job and a good base and I get to travel so what better job can you have?

Q. What's the difference on Tasmania shearing-wise to mainland Australia and here in New Zealand?

A. Just wool prep and types of wool. We have a lot of crossbreds in our area at the moment which for these guys would be a quarter bred of half bred so it is a lot different. The prep's a little bit different but basically the same principle – wool is king.

You prep the wool properly and that's where your return comes for the grower. The higher the return, the more respect and the better your name gets out there and the more people who want you to work for them so it's a knock-on effect.

Q. And you looked in good form in there in the heat (at the Northern Southland Shears).

A. Yeah it was quite good actually. I had a lot of shed sense. Normally before competition I get a little nervous but I sort of lost that.

Q. Pretty rough draw with Joel (Henare) and Pagan (Karauria) in your heat as well!

A. (Laughing) Yeah it was pretty good because I thought, right, I need to be on my game. The pair of them have such high skills and quality. Pagan has been mentoring me and she's been fantastic and a good friend and she's just been teaching me and honing my skills and brushing me up so it's been fantastic.

Q. Nice, well it's great to have you here and we look forward to seeing you in a few weeks in Invercargill.

A. Cheers, thank you and I love the snow in January (laughs). What's with that? It's just like my area so that's great.