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Females tackle the fleece

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Bob GarnantCountryman
Jilly Wegner, of Nungarin, with the inaugural Heiniger Female Challenge trophy which will be awarded on Saturday at the IGA Perth Royal Show.
Camera IconJilly Wegner, of Nungarin, with the inaugural Heiniger Female Challenge trophy which will be awarded on Saturday at the IGA Perth Royal Show. Credit: Countryman

The inaugural 2016 Heiniger Female Challenge will give IGA Perth Royal Show visitors a look into the work of professional female shearers.

Off the back of the successful Heiniger Female 50 held last year in which six female shearers banded together to put in a collective time, this year will feature up to 12 female shearers competing for top bragging rights with a single winner outcome.

Event organiser Todd Wegner said the Challenge is open to all female shearers with above novice experience.

“It was designed to be a celebration of professional female shearers,” he said.

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Mr Wagner said most of the female shearers from last year will return and some Eastern States competitors were also expected to contest $1000 in prizes.

He said the Challenge would allow competitors of all levels of experience to compete against each other using a handicap system.

“We could have intermediate competitors, shearing four sheep, against open shearers with six sheep going all out on the boards,” he said.

Mr Wegner, his wife Jilly and their sons Rocky and Beau have all been involved in the shearing industry.

Mrs Wegner, now semi-retired, was a professional shed shearer for 10 years and competed in many shearing contests.

At the Quairading Quick Shears competition last year, she won the women’s event.

“Successful women shearers must develop excellent technique in order to gain the confidence of an employer,” she said.

“Although most women don’t have the strength of men, what we lack in muscle is made up in shearing clean and we don’t stress the sheep by muscling it.”

Mrs Wegner said her career in the male-dominated industry was challenging, but once she developed the skills, she found support from both employers and her male counterparts.

“The older male shearers were very supportive but the younger ones were worried about their jobs if I sheared above their capacity,” she said.

“Shearing has allowed me to travel around Australia and overseas.

“When I was shearing in the UK, and nursing my baby, the doctor told me I need to consume 13,000 megajoules of energy to shear and breastfeed my baby on the same day. Shearing is certainly one of the best ways to tone down the body after having a baby.

“I found it best to fit in some weight training and cardiovascular exercise to reduce the incidence of injury and maintain a high level of shearing.

“I had a few injuries over the years, but safety regulations and requirements have since been improved which has created a safer work environment.”

Mrs Wegner encourages female shearers with above novice experience to consider taking part in the Challenge.

“Competing against other women is less intimidating than shearing against men,” she said.

“The Challenge will set an example for younger women who are thinking about a career in the industry. We hope the event becomes a regular showcase for female shearers.”

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