World champion woolhandler Joel Henare has signalled his retirement with a decision to step back from competitions this year, so he can spend more time with his young family.
Joel felt that his boys, Keanu, 5, Hikurangi, 4, and Lee, 3), were missing out – so for 2019 he only plans to attend premier events like Golden Shears, and will no longer chase regional open titles.
If selected, he will still represent New Zealand at the 2019 world championships, says Joel, who is originally from Gisborne but grew up in the woolsheds of Central Otago and now resides in Motueka.
“I’ve done everything I wanted to do. I could have gone on to set records and do more, but I felt the time was right to step back from competition. Now I’m looking forward to spending more time with my family.”
The 27-year-old has racked up more than 100 open titles in his 12-year career – only the second woolhandler to do so – and first competed when he was just 12 years old.
It’s been a stellar career for Joel, who had his first open-class woolhandling win at age 15, and now holds a record of more than 100 wins, including four world titles, world championships individual and teams’ titles in 2012 and 2017, and a record six consecutive Golden Shears open titles.
Joel has been around woolsheds for as long as he can remember, with mum Greta Davoren a woolhandler as well.
Getting expelled from school when he was 12 turned out to be a blessing in disguise as it provided the springboard for his successful woolhandling career. He went to work in the woolsheds with his mum, and continued his education via correspondence.
“Mum taught me the basics, and that first season I got a few months of intensive training from Tina Rimene, who at the time was one of the best woolhandlers around. She taught me and others the ropes, and told us that her goal was to train the youngest world champion woolhandler.”
Joel loved the work and hasn’t looked back since those early days in the woolshed.
“I would happily be in the woolshed all day watching and learning. I would’ve worked for nothing.”
Getting to be a world champion was the result of hard work and dedication, says Joel, who sought out the advice of master woolhandlers to “pick their brains” and organised his jobs so he could work alongside experts to see how they did things.
“Woolhandling is a part of me, and something I grew to be good at. I’ve stuck at it because of all the great people I’ve met, and being on the stage and seeing the joy people get from watching us is great. I don’t do it for myself.”