Agricultural Shows of Australia (ASA) today announced the seven national finalists in the prestigious annual Merino fleece young judges competition, sponsored by Australian Wool Innovation.

The competition brings together the best young Merino fleece judges aged from 15 to 25 in each state.

Dr Rob Wilson is chairman of ASA, the peak body overseeing the 572 agricultural shows in Australia which attract six million visitors annually and contribute nearly $1billion to the national economy, and says the competition is designed to recognise and support the best new talent in judging livestock nationwide.

“It’s an extremely prestigious event and positions at the nationals are keenly contested,” Dr Wilson explains.

“These young people are the future of agricultural show competitions which are crucial to the continual improvement of Australia’s food and fibre. The national competition is a coveted opportunity to grow personally and professionally by practising skills against the cream of the crop.”

The national competition is held in a different location each year to promote livestock judging, parading and the industry as widely as possible throughout Australia. This year it will be hosted by Queensland Ag Shows at the 143rd Royal Queensland Show (the “Ekka”), Brisbane from 7-9 August 2021.

Queensland Ag Shows president Kerri Robertson explained that, in a Merino fleece competition, young judges assess the style, uniformity of length, yield, handle, colour or bloom and crimp formation of the wool.

“Entrants are asked to outline their reasons for placing the animals and justify their positions. Participants demonstrate skills in communication, public speaking, fleece and industry specific knowledge,” Ms Robertson said.

“The task of judging is a subjective one, based on selected production systems and changing market conditions. It is important that entrants are able to use their skills and articulate their approach. Our goal is to expand the knowledge and skills of the entrants, helping them as youthful individuals to develop their careers.”

Overall there are nine categories for judging and parading each year under the ASA national competition program: beef cattle, dairy cattle, alpaca, poultry, Merino sheep, meat sheep breed and Merino fleece judging, as well as parading competitions in beef and dairy cattle.

Australian Wool Innovation’s Chief Operating Officer John Roberts says AWI is proud to support the competition.

“Australian wool has a bright future so it needs the best in the brightest to stay interested and involved in this great industry that’s why we are so pleased to back the annual Merino fleece young judges competition. And may the best judge win,” Mr Roberts said.

Qualification for the national finals is via success in regional and state competitions.

  • 23 year old Hayden Baker of Katanning will represent Western Australia. Read about Hayden here.
  • 21 year old Will Hacker of “Roselea” Muckadilla will represent Queensland. Read about Will here.
  • 22 year old Matilda Scott of Cleveland will represent Tasmania. Read about Matilda here.
  • 19 year old Sophie Nuske of Port Lincoln will represent South Australia. Read about Sophie here.
  • 18 year old Clarissa Peasley of Condobolin/Forbes will represent New South Wales. Read about Clarissa here.
  • 18 year old Erin Douglas of Mornington will represent Victoria. Read about Erin here.
  • 19 year old Niamh Barnett of Dannevirke is the successful competitor for New Zealand.

Previous national winners of the Merino fleece competition include Stephanie Davies of NSW in 2019, Stuart Richardson of WA in 2018, Caitlin Hepner of SA in 2017, Brooke Sewell of NSW in 2016, Angus Dawson of NSW in 2015, Tara Clarke of SA in 2014, Jessica Perrin of NZ in 2013, Will Gibson of WA in 2012, Allycia Bennett of QLD in 2011, Rick Wise of WA in 2010, Kurt Wise of WA in 2009 and Belinda Reardon of TAS in 2008.


ASA will issue a press release with the results as soon as they are announced. Media are welcome to attend the national finals. For more information about the competition head to