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Wales on the prowl as Kiwis dominate shears hopes

For home team New Zealand the goals at the World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill this week are lofty and demanding.

Fans expect machine shearers John Kirkpatrick and Nathan Stratford, woolhandlers Joel Henare and Mary-Anne Baty, and blade shearers Tony Dobbs and Phil Oldfield to add to New Zealand's total of more than 30 machine shearing and woolhandling individual and teams titles in the 16 championships since the first in England in 1977.

But it's different for other nations, even Wales which has claimed three woolhandling titles, has establish home-and-away shearing tests against New Zealand, and which shapes as possibly the best prepared of the 31 visiting teams, with machine shearers Gwion Evans and Ian Jones, woolhandlers Robyn Charlton and Ffion Jones, and blade shearers Elfed Jones and Gareth Owen each having been in New Zealand several weeks or more.

Visiting Invercargill's ILT Stadium where the four-day championships start tomorrow, Wales team manager Martyn David said: "We tried to get out here as soon as we could to get the practice and to get to know the local conditions."

With a full complement of six competitors, Wales is thus one of nine countries contesting all six titles, with, despite the understatement from the manager reasonable hopes of contesting all of the finals.

In July the team was selected comprising circuit winners Evans, Ffion Jones and Jackson, Champion Shearer of Wales winner Ian Jones, and Royal Welsh Show Open winners Charlton and Owen.

Wales fields new combinations in both the machine shearing and woolhandling.

Of the shearers, David said: "They are a young team, the aim is to get into the final, but we're really looking toward the next World Championships in about two years' time."

The woolhandlers are the best of friends, and have been challenging each other since their selection, which started with the first events in the Welsh circuit in late May last year.

First of the Welsh to arrive, in October, was Charlton who has worked in New Zealand several seasons, who once won a Junior competition final in the South Island, and who is engaged to Southland butcher Nathan Kean, of Winton.

The remainder arrived progressively, with all except Owen having competed last weekend, at either the Otago Championships in Balclutha, or, for bladesman Jackson, at the Inangahua A and P Show's Reefton Shears on the West Coast.

The manager said he's amazed by the team's support, estimating as many as 40 supporters may have come to New Zealand especially for the championships, in addition to dozens of Welsh shearing in New Zealand during the summer. "We've just booked 30 tickets for the World dinner," he said.

The team is also being followed by a crew from television production outfit Slam Media, preparing an hour-long documentary expected to help lift the profile of the shearing sports across the UK, where the sheep population is thought to be increasing, in contrast to the depleting national flock in New Zealand.

The party includes Golden Shears World Council life member Bryan Williams, who is his country's council delegate for a ninth time in 10 championships.

Pictured is the front end of the Welsh contingent, from left Arwyn Jones, machine shearers Gwion Evans and Ian Jones, team manager Martyn David, woolhandlers Ffion Jones and Robyn Charlton, Dilwyn Evans, and stalwart Bryan Williams.
For home team New Zealand the goals at the World shearing and woolhandling championships in Invercargill this week are lofty and demanding.

Fans expect machine shearers John Kirkpatrick and Nathan Stratford, woolhandlers Joel Henare and Mary-Anne Baty, and blade shearers Tony Dobbs and Phil Oldfield to add to New Zealand's total of more than 30 machine shearing and woolhandling individual and teams titles in the 16 championships since the first in England in 1977.

But it's different for other nations, even Wales which has claimed three woolhandling titles, has establish home-and-away shearing tests against New Zealand, and which shapes as possibly the best prepared of the 31 visiting teams, with machine shearers Gwion Evans and Ian Jones, woolhandlers Robyn Charlton and Ffion Jones, and blade shearers Elfed Jones and Gareth Owen each having been in New Zealand several weeks or more.

Visiting Invercargill's ILT Stadium where the four-day championships start tomorrow, Wales team manager Martyn David said: "We tried to get out here as soon as we could to get the practice and to get to know the local conditions."

With a full complement of six competitors, Wales is thus one of nine countries contesting all six titles, with, despite the understatement from the manager reasonable hopes of contesting all of the finals.

In July the team was selected comprising circuit winners Evans, Ffion Jones and Jackson, Champion Shearer of Wales winner Ian Jones, and Royal Welsh Show Open winners Charlton and Owen.

Wales fields new combinations in both the machine shearing and woolhandling.

Of the shearers, David said: "They are a young team, the aim is to get into the final, but we're really looking toward the next World Championships in about two years' time."

The woolhandlers are the best of friends, and have been challenging each other since their selection, which started with the first events in the Welsh circuit in late May last year.

First of the Welsh to arrive, in October, was Charlton who has worked in New Zealand several seasons, who once won a Junior competition final in the South Island, and who is engaged to Southland butcher Nathan Kean, of Winton.

The remainder arrived progressively, with all except Owen having competed last weekend, at either the Otago Championships in Balclutha, or, for bladesman Jackson, at the Inangahua A and P Show's Reefton Shears on the West Coast.

The manager said he's amazed by the team's support, estimating as many as 40 supporters may have come to New Zealand especially for the championships, in addition to dozens of Welsh shearing in New Zealand during the summer. "We've just booked 30 tickets for the World dinner," he said.

The team is also being followed by a crew from television production outfit Slam Media, preparing an hour-long documentary expected to help lift the profile of the shearing sports across the UK, where the sheep population is thought to be increasing, in contrast to the depleting national flock in New Zealand.

The party includes Golden Shears World Council life member Bryan Williams, who is his country's council delegate for a ninth time in 10 championships.

Pictured is the front end of the Welsh contingent, from left Arwyn Jones, machine shearers Gwion Evans and Ian Jones, team manager Martyn David, woolhandlers Ffion Jones and Robyn Charlton, Dilwyn Evans, and stalwart Bryan Williams.