9 April 2024

Wagga event raises the 'baa' for speed shearing worldwide

| Chris Roe
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woman shearing a sheep in a competition

Dual world record-holder Sacha Bond will return to Wagga Wagga this year. Photos: Supplied.

Gun shearers from across the globe will converge on the Wagga Wagga Showground this month to test their mettle at the 2024 Wagga Speed Shear.

Now in its third year, the Wagga competitive shearing event has grown quickly and is raising the bar for the niche sport in Australia.

Organiser Atareta Te Kanawa-Semenoff is from a family of shearers and grew up around the sheds in New Zealand.

“Part of why we got so big so fast is that we offered a $12,000 first prize and that was the biggest money in the world for speed shearing,” she said, explaining that they raised all the funds themselves.

“I did raffles, raffles and raffles! And we signed up sponsors and had VIP tables, so it was a lot of work!”

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While there are a host of categories, speed shearing is pretty much what you’d expect. Shear sheep as fast and as cleanly as you can.

Atareta said she wanted to build an event that celebrated the skill and stamina of the competitors, but also rewarded them properly for their efforts.

“When I started the Wagga Speed Shear, I wanted to do something different and offer prizes that would really help them build for the future,” she said, acknowledging the physical toll of a life in the woolsheds.

“I felt like our industry was going through a tough time and I wanted to motivate our competitive shearers and offer training courses in mindset and personal training courses and help them think about what they would do after they left shearing.”

woman inspecting freshly sheared wool

Wagga Speed Shear organiser Atareta Te Kanawa-Semenoff at the wool table at an event in Wales.

The event has steadily grown in scale, attracting hundreds of competitors from across Australia, New Zealand and the UK.

“After our first big event, we were invited to Wales and New Zealand and this year, the Royal Welsh Show Committee has approved a speed-shear team to come over here,” she said.

“That’s a first for them because they don’t usually have a travelling speed-shearing team.

“So starting the event here in Wagga has sort of opened up a whole new speed-shearing world!”

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Among several world record-holders set to compete at the Wagga Showground is young Kiwi woman Sacha Bond, who has two nine-hour shearing world marks to her name.

She is the first woman to hold records for both ewe and lamb simultaneously after defleecing 720 Strong Wool Lambs and 458 Strong Wool Ewes.

Sascha will be presented with two certificates in recognition of her achievement at the Wagga Speed Shear.

“At the moment, women shearers are smashing the records!” Atareta said.

“They say doing a day’s shearing is like running a few marathons and if you think of the hundreds of sheep she lifts in those nine hours, the stamina, endurance and strength is just amazing.”

Looking ahead, Atareta is hoping to keep building on the growing interest and establish a national competition between the states as well as further international events.

“It’s pretty exciting, and once again, we’ve got the best shearers in the world coming to Wagga. We hope to see some pretty fast times!”

The Wagga Wagga Speed Shear is on Saturday, 20 April, at the Wagga Showground and you can learn more on the official Facebook page.

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