17 August 2023

The little school driving Binda’s $20,000 shearing showdown

| John Thistleton
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man standing next to flock of sheep in shearing shed

Grazier Brian Lowe (above) is providing sheep for the Binda Quick Shear on Saturday, 2 September. The following day, Woodstock Show’s speed-shear competition near Cowra will be held, and organisers hope competitors go from Binda to Woodstock the next day. Photo: Binda Quick Shear.

With more than $20,000 in prize money and fractions of a second separating the speed of gun shearers, a fierce competition next month in the village of Binda, north of Crookwell, could come down to a grass seed.

Something as simple as a seed in the wrong place, an unsettled sheep, or a stumble could rob a lightning-quick shearer from the prestige and prizes attached to the Binda Quick Shear on 2 September.

One of the organisers, Jodie Garnham, a wool classer and part-time shearer, says luck plays a role.

“It’s a combination of ability, whether the sheep plays up, you don’t know whether underneath the wool it may have an imperfection, it might have a grass seed in it that’s caused a boil,” Jodie said.

”If that’s nicked, that would be deemed a ‘red light’. The shearers are still judged on their quality.”

A clean, shed-quality shear brings a green light and qualification for the next round. But two red lights means disqualification.

19 kilometres north of Crookwell, Binda’s population of 290 people could almost double for its inaugural quick-shear event, which aims to raise money for the village’s public school.

The shearers’ entry fees, which range from $40 to $60, will be donated to the Binda Public School’s Parents and Citizens Association. The little school with 17 pupils is close to a main road and parents aim to use the money to increase the height of two fences close to the thoroughfare.

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Jodie and her husband Terry, a full-time shearer who is helping organisers, have three children, Billie Joe, 10, Arlee, 7, and Eli, 6, attending the school.

Entries will be capped at 100 to ensure organisers have enough prepared sheep for the competition, including semi-finals and finals. All up, about 200 crutched sheep will be needed.

Wool around the sheep’s head to the front legs, down to the hocks on the back legs as well as the belly is removed by crutching. Aside from ensuring a quick shear, the crutching eliminates all the dangerous points where a sheep could be injured.

“You haven’t taken out the hard bits, just the more dangerous pieces that you don’t need to go near when shearing at that speed,” Jodie said.

Gun shearers will likely finish under 20 seconds a sheep.

woman shearing

One of the competition’s organisers, Jodie Garnham, shearing at Muttaburra, Queensland. Photo: Binda Quick Shear.

Prize money will also reward placegetters, who will probably finish within a second or less of the winners in the six categories.

“It’s hundredths of a second in it, and why should all the money go to the winner?” Jodie asks. “We want to share the love.”

Organisers have invited female shearers to enter, and if they receive 10 entries or more, a separate category will be created. Shearers aged 50 and older can enter the masters section, and there are plenty of them older than that.

“My dad Roger is 75 and he still shears,” Jodie said.

Tension inevitably rises when shearers are going hard to win money and may question a red-light ruling.

“I think competitors have a right to know why they were ‘red-lighted’, because how can they ever improve if they don’t get any feedback?”

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Making those green and red-light calls will be one of the head judges of Sports Shear NSW, volunteer judge Nicholas Hearn, from neighbouring Bigga.

The Binda Progress Association will cater to visitors, Robbo’s General Store will provide drinks and the Binda Fire Brigade will take a gold coin donation for entry. The brigade is saving to buy a defibrillator for the sporting grounds, which have tennis, cricket and children’s play areas.

As fast as quick shearers go, they are not always enough to hold the interest of children over four or five hours. So organisers want to turn the event into a family day and have organised free face-painting, a 45-minute magic show and supervised games.

They also plan a kids’ shearing challenge. For this they coat a corflute cutout of a sheep with a generous heap of shaving cream and arm the kids with a scraper to take it all off as methodically as a shearer would.

“It means that a kid of any ability or age can have a go at the kids’ challenge,” Jodie said.

The cutout sheep will be free of grass seeds, too.

The Binda Quick Shear will be held on Saturday, September 2 from 10:30 am. To reserve a spot or find out more about the event, head to the Quick Shear Inc website.

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