Three New Zealanders have grabbed-back some Kiwi pride with wins at glamour Welsh lambshearing and woolhandling competition the Corwen Shears.
The wins went on Saturday to Jack Fagan, 31, of Te Kuiti, in the Open shearing final, beating new World champion Gwion Evans, and Blake Mitchell, 20, of Patea, in the Junior shearing final, and on Friday.to Sonya Fagan (Jack Fagan’s second cousin), aged 19 and falso rom Te Kuiti in the Intermediate woolhandling final.
On the flip-side the Wools of New Zealand Shearing Sports New Zealand team of Masterton brothers-in-law Paerata Abraham and David Gordon ended its 2023 UK tour without a win in a three-test series against Wales, bowing by 13 points to 2019 World Champion Richard Jones and new Champion Shearer of Wales Gethin Lewis.
But they’re looking forward to resuming the battle early in the new year in New Zealand, where Wales is yet to beat New Zealand, Gordon, in particular, having prospered on his first tour.
Selected as sixth placegetter in the New Zealand Shears Open final, after the unavailability of others, including World Championships representatives Leon Samuels and Rowland Smith, he had good personal results in the tests and was fifth to Fagan in the Corwen Open final, having just scraped through the heats of 54 shearers to be last man into the semi-finals at No 18, and being and then being top qualifier for the six-man final.
While Jack Fagan has had several wins in a decade in the Open class, including the Royal Welsh Open in 2015 and in the 2022-2023 season the New Zealand Corriedales Championship in Christchurch and the New Zealand Crossbred Lambshearing title in Southland, his cousin had had just one previous win, in a Novice woolhandling final at the Devon County Show in England in May, and Mitchell’s win was his first.
The Fagan victories continued a family link to the Corwen lambshearing championships, with brothers John and David Fagan – Jack Fagan’s brother and father respectively – closely involved in the event when it was established in 1989, as the first show in the UK with a 20-sheep final.
They presented the Fagan Brothers Trophy, the silverware that was claimed by Jack Fagan today. The now-Sir David Fagan won the first final and went on to win 13 times, and John Fagan also won, as did son James.
It was the culmination of a big year for Jack Fagan who last December set a World eight-hour strongwool lambshearing record of 754, an average of 38.2 seconds a lamb.
Today he was first-off, at the same rate of 38.2 seconds a lamb, caught, shorn and despatched, shearing the 20 in 12min 44sec, and beat next-man-off Evans by 23 seconds, while also scoring the best quality points in the shearing board.
Evans’ better points from judging in the pens enabled him to close the gap to just 0.7pts.
In the test match, Gethin Lewis, who will return to New Zealand later this year for a seventh season with Napier shearing contractor Brendan Mahony, made the pace, shearing the 20 lambs in 13min 7sec.
But Richard Jones, who with Evans won the World teams championship a month ago in Scotland, was again the top individual on points, despite being last to finish, had also been the case in the second test at the Royal Welsh show on Wednesday.
Drama for Junior final winner
There was an element of drama for competitions rookie Blake Mitchell, initially announced as third placegetter in the Junior final and winner of the award for the cleanest shearer.
But, knowing he had also had the fastest time, the result was challenged and an error found, leading to a second prizegiving and his elevation to first place.
Off a dairy farm, an old-boy of Francis Douglas Memorial College in New Plymouth, and taught to shear over the last two years by uncle and Whanganui shearing contractor Matt Thompson, it was only his third competition, having shorn only in the heats at his first in Marton last February, and being eliminated in the semi-finals at the Cothi Shears in Wales last weekend.
He was the sixth qualifier for the six-man final, where he shore the five lambs in 6min 33sec, first off the board by 43 seconds, and winning by 0.7pts from runner-up and Welsh shearer Luke Price.
He reckoned if it wasn’t for the shearing he’d be still working on the dairy farm, but after a short time remaining in the UK and then a month or two shearing in Australia he’ll return to New Zealand to set some new goals.
“I’ve got the bug for winning now so I’ll be getting some practice in for the circuit in New Zealand this summer to get some more red ribbons,” he said.
Another Fagan wins in Wales
Sonya Fagan is now one of Five King Country Fagans on the Corwen Shears honours board after capping a promising season in the UK with her first win
A daughter of Craig and Sarah Fagan, she arrived in the Northern Hemisphere to work in Norway in February and it became a dream to be at the Royal Highland Show and 2023 Golden Shears World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships, which were held in Scotland on June 22-25, with competitors from more than 30 countries
Among them were boyfriend and Welsh shearer Philip Price, who had several wins in lower grades in New Zealand before graduating to the Open class.
Fagan started in the Novice grade, with no winning history in a small number of competitions over the years in New Zealand and at Ediburgh five weeks ago in a field of 24, she was top qualifier for the Royal Highland Novice Woolhandling final, in which she was beaten only by Scottish woolhandler Sarah Bateman.
The form continued with third place on another big stage in the Royal Welsh Show Intermediate final last Tuesday, and in an otherwise all-Wales field at Corwen qualified for the final in which she beat the first two qualifiers.
Fagan expects it to have been her last competition in the UK before heading home to New Zealand in November and re-launching her New Zealand show career in January, probably at the Taihape A and P Show.
“I’ve been in the shearing shed since I was, like, born really,” she said. “I did my first main shear rousing when I was 11, and have done about 10 main shears in New Zealand.”
“Last year was my first year going outside of New Zealand to rousie and I fell in love with the travel and started competing this year competitively,” she said.
“I’ve done a few shows over the years in New Zealand but never really took it seriously until I came here,” she said.
She has also competed as a shearer and armed with the skills for a travelling lifestyle, and a short interrupted stint at university, said: “I want to travel and see the World, but when I’ve found a place to settle down I want to go back to do agricultural business. I love farming I want learn the business side of it.”
Results of finals with New Zealand competitors at the Corwen Shears in North Wales on Friday-Saturday, July 28-29, 2023:
International (20 sheep): Wales 98.45pts (Richard Jones 13min 37sec, 47.05pts; Gethin Lewis 13min 7sec, 51.4pts) beat New Zealand 111.85pts (Paerata Abraham 13min 15sec, 54.1pts; David Gordon 13min 35sec, 57.75pts). Wales won the series 3-0.
Corwen Shears Open final (20 lambs): Jack Fagan (Te Kuiti, NZ) 12min 44sec, 48.7pts, 1; Gwion Evans (Wales) 13min 7sec, 49.45pts, 2; Alun Rhydonnen (Wales) 13min 15sec, 49.75pts, 3; Ian Jones (Wales) 14min 17sec, 52.75pts, 4; David Gordon (Masterton, NZ) 13min 22sec, 54.5pts, 5; Dean Nelmes (England) 23min 32sec, 64.85pts, 6.
Corwen Shears Junior final (5 lambs): Blake Mitchell (Patea, NZ) 6min 33sec, 31.45pts, 1; Luke Price (Wales) 8min 15sec, 32.15pts, 2; Barney Richardson (England) 7min 16sec, 32.4pts, 3; Ioan Williams (Wales) 7min 50sec, 33.3pts, 4; Elis Jones (Wales) 7min 47sec, 33.35pts, 5; Harvey Samuel (Wales) 7min 41sec, 36.85pts, 6.
Corwen Shears Intermediate final: Sonya Fagan (Te Kuiti, NZ) 1; Awel Jones (Wales) 2; Ffion Haf Jones Wales) 3.