Five young talented locals are packing their bags for Dubbo, NSW this November to represent South Australia in the open division at the National Shearing and Wool Handling Championships.
Janise Hebberman from Kapunda; Rachel Saegenschnitter from Truro; Mark Schutz from Eudunda and Kapunda brothers, Nathan and Lindsay Meaney will join teammate, Emily Sweeny from Wudinna to compete in the open sport shearing and wool handling events.
It is unique to have almost all of the open competitors on the state team hailing from the same region, and shows the calibre of sport shearing talent coming up through local ranks.
It is also the first time, according to the team, that two brothers have made the top cut.
“It sort of is a changing of the guard,” said wool handler, Janise, who is also Nathan’s girlfriend.
“Shannon Warnest has been number one in South Australia for twenty years and Justin Dolphin was running second to him for a while but they’ve just retired, so Nathan’s come into the number one spot, and Lindsay and Mark have come into second and third.”
Lindsay will have his work cut out for him to show up big brother, Nathan, a seasoned competitor with at least eight national appearances already under his belt, but he’s ready to give it a red hot go.
Nathan’s response: “We’ll see on the day!”
Competition at the national level is fierce, according to the team.
Rachel had her first taste of it in 2018 when she competed in the Senior division in wool handling.
“You don’t quite expect the Nationals to be quite as intense as what it is… It was a shock last year,” she said.
Nathan agrees. “Nationals is the next step by a long way,” he said.
“You’ll have a heat of twelve sheep and if you’re not on on that first sheep when they say go, if you are five seconds behind and just not got your rhythm right, that will put you out of the finals straight away.”
Following in the footsteps of the likes of Warnest, Nathan credits the older shearer with inspiring him to improve and succeed.
“He was the mentor that I looked up to and sheared against the whole time,” he said.
“He’s won over 100 open titles himself, so you’re learning from the best.”
The competition will include one team event with the number one and two shearers and wool handlers from each state facing off against each other.
Other than that, all competition is individual, with only the top six competitors getting a crack at the national title in the finals.
Shearing is judged against the clock, as well as cleanliness of the shear.
It’s a mental game, as much as a physical one, says Nathan.
“You’ve got to be mentally fit as well as physically fit. If stuff goes wrong, a sheep might kick and hold you up and you’ve got to try and get your mind around it and get your rhythm straight back so you’re not losing any time on it,” he said.
Wool handling, which is the art of preparing or “skirting” the fleece for classification and sale, requires just as much concentration.
“Everything’s got its spot where it needs to be, you’ve got to remember what goes in what bucket, so it’s a mental thing. If you’re getting distracted you’ll lose where you’re up to,” said Rachel.
The young team are optimistic about their chances of bringing home a title or two on November 30, and are proud to be ambassadors for the region at a national level.
“It’s good to get our area on the map,” said Rachel.