Bowls New Zealand Summary – by Lindsay Knight
Wendy Jensen, Robyne Walker and Graham Skellern ensured the 2022-23 national championships finished on a high note for the North Harbour centre when the tournament concluded with the finals at Browns Bay yesterday.
Wendy and Robyne performed splendidly to make the women’s pairs final and Graham gained his third national para title when he and his Canterbury partner Bruce Wakefield beat Steve Delaney and Jonathan Radka in the disability pairs final.
The feat of Wendy and Robyne in securing a silver medal followed Selina Goddard’s brilliant win in in last week’s singles final, again emphasising Takapuna’s phenomenal women’s bowling depth.
In the final Wendy and Robyne lost 16-12 to Tayla Bruce, the runner-up to Selina in the epic singles final, and her Silverstream partner, Clare Hendra.
Against players of this quality Wendy and Robyne had to be in their best form, which they had been for most of the early rounds. But what was always going to be a difficult task became even harder when they started badly.
With Bruce in the first half of the final exploiting short ends and playing immaculate lead bowls the Takapuna pair trailed 0-9 after six ends.
A brief rally started with a four on the seventh end, but over the final stages Bruce and Hendra maintained a comfortable lead.
Robyne thus joined husband Brett O’Riley in making a national final. In the 1990s Brett was runner-up in the singles to the great Peter Belliss and again a runner-up in the fours when playing with another great Phil Skoglund and his two sons, Philip junior and Raymond.
Wendy, too, would have been disappointed to have gone so far in a nationals, only to miss out. Despite her many honours her only national titles have been in the champion of champion singles in 1998 and in Superbowls in 2000-01.
To make the final Wendy and Robyne had some outstanding results. They ousted Selina and her Black Jack partner Amy Mcllroy, promising Aucklanders Ashleigh Jeffcoat and Kimberly Hemingway in the quarter-finals and Janeen Noble and Robyn Schischka 21-3 in the semi-finals.
Philip Skoglund, soon to transfer to Wairarapa with the police, ensured his brief stay with the centre was a memorable one by being the best performed North Harbour player in the men’s singles. He made the quarter-finals and among the players he beat was Black Jack Tony Grantham, 21-20.
Other Harbour players who made the men’s singles post-section were Raymond Skoglund, Simon Poppleton, Jerry Belcher, Wynne Gray, Norm Scott-Morrison, Brent Malcolm, David Eades, David Payne, who with Evan Thomas also made pairs qualifying, Dave McMurchy, Mark Preedy, Callum Clark, Bart Robertson, Neil Fisher, Brian Wilson, Willie McIvor, Matt Higginson, John Janssen, Phil Chisholm, and Wayne Glogoski.
Other Takapuna combinations qualifying for the women’s pairs post-section were Lisa Dickson and Lauren Mills and Skye Renes and Keiko Kurohara, plus Birkenhead’s Trish Croot playing as a composite with Gaylene Kawana.
Apart from the playing side, the centre and many of its clubs, especially Brpwns Bay as the headquarters and along with Orewa in staging the finals, deserve plaudits for hosting and overall organisation.
In view of the many challenges posed by the dreadful weather this was a credit to all.
From visiting bowler especially there was widespread praise for the standard of greens and the hospitality they received.