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NZ Woolhandler of the Year finalists found

The world seemed to revolve around Balclutha today as the Otago Shearing and New Zealand Woolhandling Championships began at the Balclutha War Memorial Hall today.

The opening day of the 2017 championships featured woolhandling and junior and intermediate shearing and saw a strong southern contingent and competitors from throughout New Zealand line up alongside Falkland Islanders, Australians, Welsh, Germans, English, Scots, Irish, Dutch, Austrians, French, Cook Islanders, Swiss and American opponents.

Highlights included Gisborne's Joel Henare's domination of the NZ Woolhandler of the Year Open competition, qualifying with a mighty 30 point buffer to his nearest rival in the morning heats. He was made to work harder in the afternoon semi-finals however, shading Candy Hiri of Mataura by a little over half a point to qualify for Saturday's four-strong final, alongside Hiri, Pagan Karauria (Alexandra) and surprise packet Cheri Peterson of Milton.

Henare, Karauria and Hiri will also contest the South Island Open Circuit Final tomorrow along with Tia Potae, Tina Elers and Chelsea Collier.

The NZ Senior Woolhandler of the Year will be decided Saturday, after Erana Smith, Sharon Tuhakarina, Ebony Turipa and Maiden Elers all qualified following two rounds of action today.

Five titles were decided today. Chenell Waihape of Mataura is the New Zealand Junior Woolhandler of the Year after she dominated the final to win by a shade under 50 points, wiping the slate with a clean sweep of low scores across time, board, oddment and fleece penalty points. Tiana Smith finished second ahead of Tyla Hira and Shannon Ferguson.

Invercargill's Lashara Anderson took out the South Island Junior Woolhandling Circuit ahead of Autumn Waihape and Chennell Waihape, while Ebony Turipa claimed the Senior Circuit victory over Sharon Tuhakarina and Erana Smith.

The Junior and Intermediate Otago Shearing titles were also handed out. Jayden Paul took out the Junior title from James Dickson, Tyson Crown, Ryan Kirk and Harlem Haare before the closest final of the day, which was reserved for the last event on the programme.

Less than three points separated the five-strong Intermediate shearing final field. And quality carried the day as Brandon Maguire-Ratima, who was last to finish on time, 1 minute and 16 seconds behind the fastest finalist, cleaned up across the Board and Pen faults to claim the title. A pumped up Jan Juppe of Germany claimed second, despite being fourth finished with Mitchell Murray, George Olaf of England and Barney Cummings rounding out the minor placings.

The Otago Shears continues Saturday from 7:30am and we will have updates throughout the day on the World Championship's Facebook page.