Bowls News from Taranaki – Lepperton hot favourites to retain title

Thanks to Grant Hassall and the Taranaki Daily News, for providing us with the latest lawn bowls news from Taranaki… “The women take centre-stage on Saturday when the major interclub competitions begin.

The top division are playing at Paritutu and the second tier at Opunake.

Defending champions Lepperton start at short odds in the Vospers-sponsored top division. Denise Cooper will handle the singles, Elaine Miller and Pauline Davy will combine in the pairs, while the powerful four is made up of Mary Maxwell, Nellie Hewson, Lois Ritson and Ellie Goble.

That means June Ward, with 21 Taranaki titles, will act as a reserve, although she has a hip causing trouble at the moment.

Opunake, Hawera and Inglewood have finished near the top in recent years and with reasonably settled squads should remain competitive.

Hawera Park boasts Pauline Kennedy and Kristin Stampa in the pair, who will cause plenty of trouble, while New Plymouth, the winners two years ago, should be right in the hunt. Val McEldowney plays their singles, Val Fleming skips the pair and Una Maha heads the four.

Paritutu have two sides in the top division after their second side gained promotion last year. The top Paritutu side finished seventh last year and this year Barbara Batley will play the singles. Open singles winner, Marlene Barrowman, will lead in Cathy Andrews’ four.

Last year, there was plenty of delight when the rescheduled new centre men’s fours tournament generated 38 sides.

However, it’s back to earth with a thud now. Only 28 sides will compete in Hawera this Saturday in the South Taranaki Club-sponsored tournament.

Of course, all the big names will be there, including last year’s winners, skipped by Gary Lilley (West End), and the runners-up, skipped by John Reid (Paritutu).

But the decline is a huge concern – and numbers are now no different to the old New Year time slot.

The event remains the qualifying event for the national club championships, and this has undoubtedly contributed to the decline in entries. Last year, the south sides in particular spread the talent, but this year, skilled players have joined together.

How much further will the entries be allowed to fall before the TSB Bank Taranaki open fours becomes the qualifying event?

Entries close on November 15 for the TSB Bank Taranaki Open fours and there is one thing for certain – there will be a new champion come January, 2012.

Last year’s winning skip, Gary Lawson, is back living in Christchurch and because of other commitments will not defend the title. However, New Zealand’s most successful bowler from the past 20 years will be back in the province the following season when the nationals are on.”

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