Some of the country’s most in-form bowlers have converged in the North Harbour to bid for national club glory in the singles, pairs, triples, fours and mixed pairs.
Hosted at the Browns Bay Bowling Club, the first two days will see the popular 2x4x2 Mixed Pairs get underway, with strong contenders winning through to represent each of the six zones.
The competition, much the same as the other disciplines, is the final stage of three where bowlers of all skill levels can compete in their local centre events, regional finals and if successful, line-up for the national finals.
Former Blackjack and local hope Tony Grantham, teamed with Trish Croot, will be ones to watch, though won’t have it all their own way with the vastly experienced Judy Howat of Wellington joining Brent Stubbins for a tilt at the silverware.
Other contenders in the starting line-up include Southland’s Bruce Ross and Shona Klemick, Bay of Plenty’s Dan Dickison and Mary Campbell, Canterbury’s David Milne and Pauline Smith and Hawkes Bay duo Paul and Sheryl Viggers.
In other events, former National Singles champion Dean Elgar will be leading the pack in the men’s singles, though with multiple national title holder Lance Tasker and the impressive form of South Canterbury’s Gary Ford – expect a closely fought contest throughout.
The men’s pairing will see the return of Central Otago’s Bill Clements, who after a year of suspension, has returned to the circuit in strong form, once again teaming up with Alexandra club mate Trevor Ludlow, while the brotherly duo of Logan and Brady Amer will prove ones to watch, as will the animated Nelsonian Jimmy Pugh and skip Peter Hodson, representing the Stoke Bowling Club.
A fiercely talented field will line-up in the men’s triples, with reigning Burnside Pairs champions Mike Small and Richard Hocking joining promising development maestro Barry Williams to form a steep obstacle for any opposition, while Southland hopefuls Lyall Spencer, Iain MacCullum and Alan Bailey will pose a formidable threat following their unbeaten streak thusfar. Other combinations expected to fire are the Victoria trio skipped by upcoming talent Bradley Down and the Hinuera line-up skipped by Waikato stalwart Gerrard Slattery.
As the days progress, the men’s fours will be sure to throw up some surprises with the likes of Seamus Curtin taking the reigns in his Stokes Valley quartet, while Grantham will return to the greens once again, charged with skipping a strong Browns Bay four comprising Adam Haywood, Scott Mouton and Lindsay Gilmore.
Not to be outdone, expect a strong performance from the well-balanced Waikiwi side from Southland, skipped by New Zealand PBA representative Craig Merrilees and ably assisted with firepower from Bryan Harvey, Brent Thompson and Aaron Tribe, likewise a valid title tilt will be staged by the Canterbury hopefuls of Craig Carter, Rob Fensom, Brent Mayson and Bruce Redmon – flying the flag for the countryside of Methven.
Meanwhile, the women’s action will see a strong charge to the silverware with any of the six more than capable of taking it out on their day. Leading the charge will be former National Singles champion Sue Wightman of the Mangawhai Club, though Southland’s Bronwyn Stevens and Tauranga South’s Mary Campbell will both pose strong challengers for the Northlander.
Gisborne’s Dayvinia Mills, Kapiti Coast hopeful Audrey Stevenson and Marlborough’s Sandra Bunt round out an impressive field.
The women’s pairs will see former Blackjack duo Kirsten Edwards and Amy McIlroy line-up as tournament favourites, though the experience of Hinuera duo Debbie White and Bev Corbett won’t be underestimated by the Stoke girls – nor will the firepower of Dunedin contenders Sarah Scott and Rachael McDowall – Scott herself a former New Zealand Development representative.
A glance across the women’s triples and fours, few would look past the record of Queenstown’s Margaret O’Connor and her side of Christine Buchanan, Debra Lloyd and for the fours, joined by Jane Anderson. O’Connor and Co have enjoyed lengthy successes at the New Zealand Open and have long dominated the Central Otago and Zone Six scene.
Valid contenders will come from the likes of Zone One and Two, with former Dunedin representative Sue Hodges spearheading a skilled trio comprising Mary Smale and Mary Campbell for the Tauranga South club, while Carlton Cornwall’s Alison Rennie, Jill Fraser and Clara Bowman round out a strong threat from zone one.
The four’s will see a fiercely talented line-up from Papakura take to the greens with Gaylene Harvey skipping Natarsha Grimshaw, Leanne Poulson and Marilyn Bristowe, while Northland veteran Anne Bateman will join Betty Mitchell, Gwen Lawson and former Commonwealth Games representative Manu Timoti – flying the flag high for the Hikurangi club.
With proposed changes looming for next season, you can expect all competitors to put their best foot forward and grab what could be a final opportunity for National Pathways’ honours.
May the best teams win . . . good bowling to all.
*The National 2x4x2 Mixed Pairs and National Club Championships run through from April 17 to April 27, 2018.