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Scots shearing veteran puts country before self

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

One of Scotland’s longest-serving international sportsmen has pulled-out of a test match with the old firm to help the World title aspirations of a championships team for which he missed selection.

A Scotland shearing representative for more than 25 years, 48-year-old Perthshire gun Hamish Mitchell will miss Scotland’s test match against New Zealand at the Lochearnhead Shears on Saturday.

The step was described by Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling team manager Ken Payne as a "huge" gesture to put country before self.

It gives World title hopefuls Gavin Mutch, from Huntly, Aberdeenshire, and Calum Shaw, of Saline, Fife, a crucial match together ahead of the World Shearing and Woolhandling Championships next week(July 1-7) in Le Dorat, Central France.

The Lochearnhead Shears will be the first CP Wool UK tour outing for New Zealand machine shearers Rowland Smith and Cam Ferguson before joining the Allflex New Zealand Shearing and Woolhandling team for next week’s championships. Smith and Ferguson will return to the UK for another month for four test matches against Wales.

Originally from Lawers, Aberfeldy, Mitchell, who has won in competition in New Zealand, had competed in 8 consecutive World championships since 2000, but missed selection for this year’s team when it was decided 12 months ago.

He earned some compensation at the Royal Highland Show a fortnight ago by gaining a place for the traditional Lochearnhead Shears test match, which he had otherwise missed just once in the previous 26 years.

Until his decision midweek the test had been seen as possibly a last chance to shear internationally with Mutch, with whom he won the World teams title in Ireland in 2014.

Mitchell first shore a World championships in South Africa in 2000 and with Mutch has contested most of Scotland’s internationals since 2004.

Based in New Zealand, 2012 World individual champion Mutch says the highlight was not so much the pair’s World title but the sequence of annual test-match wins they’d had over World shearing giants New Zealand.

"We shore against some of the very best shearers to ever represent New Zealand - David Fagan, Paul Avery, John Kirkpatrick (all World champions) and many more," he said.

"Hamish has always given 100 per cent at every competition," Mutch said. "As a team member he expected me to do likewise."

"From the first World Championships we did together in Australia in 2005, on merino sheep, we shore our hardest and were finally rewarded for our effort when we won the teams title in Gorey," said Mutch.

"For a man of Hamish’s experience and passion for shearing it shows his dedication to put country first and step-aside to allow Calum to shear in the team as a build-up to next week," Mutch said.

Helping erect the shearing board and stands in a marquee at Lochearnhead for the Friday-Saturday Shears, which are attracting about 100 shearers and woolhandlers, Mitchell said that standing aside for Shaw was "the right thing to do."

While Mutch is considering lowering the curtain on his own international career, Mitchell answers those who reckon he’s getting too old by saying: "They were saying this would be the last time. Well we’ll just have to make it the last time another time."

Usually with Mitchell and Mutch in charge, Scotland has won all-but one of the last 16 tests against New Zealand at Lochearnhead, but there was a minor slip-up in the World chmpionships buildup when Mutch and Shaw were beaten by England World championships hopefuls Stuart Connor and Adam Berry in a test match at the Royal Highland Show.

Despite his withdrawal from the test match, Mitchell will still compete at the Lochearnhead Shears, with hopes of regaining the Open shearing title he won three years ago.

The World championships, with over 30 countries competing, will have 6 titles at stake, with individual and teams competition in machine shearing, bladeshearing and woolhandling.

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