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The 53rd Waimate Shears attracted the best field in the open grade since the 1980s, event organiser Warren White says.

The field of 42 open-grade shearers included national representatives, record-holders and world champions.

John Kirkpatrick won the title, after each of the six finalists had the lead at one point in the competition.

“The open final was a bloody good final,” Mr White said.

“There hasn’t been over 40 [open shearers] in the South Island for donkey’s years.”

Competitors travelled from all over the country for the event. Numbers were buoyed by the fact it was the first major show of the shearing season, and speed shearing events in Waikouaiti and Maheno during the week meant there were plenty of chances for prizes.

The Waimate Shears also included the New Zealand Winter Comb title, formerly held at the now defunct Omarama Shears, which was won by Troy Pyper.

Tony Dobbs, of Fairlie, became the first shearer to win 100 open titles when he won the open blades event.

The novice shearing final was all-female affair, which Mr White believed might also have been a first.

The purpose-built Waimate Shears pavilion, which opened four years ago, was paying dividends, Mr White said.

Before that, the shears committee had been told it would be unable to use the Waimate Events Centre, even though the building that had preceded it was originally built for the shears.

“We had a meeting about whether to fold once we lost the stadium,” he said.

“We thought if we build a building and design it with all the storage so we can go down there and set it up within three hours .. if it’s easy to set up, people don’t mind helping.”

The new pavilion had built-in cameras that allowed the event to be live-streamed, and viewers had tuned in from all over the world.

Shearer Ross Fenton said his parents tuned in from Ireland to watch him compete in the junior event.

The increased coverage had helped the event gain sponsorship from international companies, Mr White said.

“Anyone who is interested in shearing is going to have a look at it,” he said.

“We don’t really want to get too much bigger, but we will fine-tune what we are doing.

“The crowd was brilliant. Having free entry definitely helps.”