Powerplay Pairs League by Lindsay Knight

In the most dramatic circumstances Birkenhead snatched Bowls North Harbour’s inaugural Powerplay Pairs League title by narrowly edging Orewa in the final at the weekend. These clubs, plus Northcote, were locked together pretty much for all the four rounds and Northcote was actually ahead after the first three rounds.

But Northcote slumped winning only one of its three matches in the fourth round, with a crucial match then coming between Orewa’s      Tony Rickerby and Noel Rooney and Birkenhead’s John Hindmarch and Ruth Lynch.                               

In what was an absorbing, spine-tingling finale Birkenhead won 7-6,4-4 to take the title with 40 overall points to Orewa’s 38.5 Northcote finished third only a point and half behind, and Browns Bay, finishing fast by winning all three of its final games, only half a point away in fourth place. Helensville finished fifth, Mairangi Bay sixth and Milford seventh.

Mairangi Bay had been impressive in qualifying top in what had been a tough qualifying zone, which included Milford and Takapuna, but some of its players, unfortunately, had to skip the final because they were in Whangarei for the regional one-to-five year play-off.

The winning Birkenhead team was John Hindmarch, Evan Thomas, Randall Watkins, Jack Huriwai, Mark Rumble and Ruth Lynch. Jerry Belcher played in five of the qualifying rounds and Jimmy Heath and Curtis Ennor were also involved in those rounds.

As well as a trophy and commemorative caps the players won $600 for their club. The total prize money was $2000, with all seven finalists receiving a share, which for the bottom teams was more than their $80 entry fee.

Despite’s Saturday’s atrocious weather, Orewa’s carpet played well and with a band in attendance there was a carnival atmosphere, which confirmed that the event is here to stay and perhaps will get even bigger. It may be significant for the format’s future development that among the spectators was Bowls New Zealand’s Martin McKenzie.

The band, headed by Mairangi Bay’s Keith Berman, provided appropriate accompaniment, including a stirring rendition of “We are the champions.”

Scattered among the teams were several of North Harbour’s best players, including Black Jack Tony Grantham with Browns Bay, gold star holder and recent New Zealand Open champion David Eades and current centre singles champion Bruce McClintock with Orewa.

Centre board chairman Graham Dorreen, the main driving force behind the PPL’s launch, was delighted with the day, describing it as “amazing.”  “The players loved the concept and the format,” he said. “They even loved the fact the prize money went to the clubs, not the players. It’s Bowls North Harbour’s philosophy to focus on the club rather than the individual and this format did that.”