Taranaki bowls team bucks decline

Thanks to Grant Hassall and the Taranaki Daily News for the latest Lawn Bowls news from Taranaki…

“Taranaki will have its biggest contingent at the New Zealand bowls championships for a number of years, when this season’s event starts in Auckland today.

There are 26 from the province competing, made up of 14 women and 12 men, and the Taranaki trend is very much the reverse of the overall entries for the championships.

Only in the men’s fours, where there are 112 sides taking part, is there any positivity, with that number up on the 98 who took part in Dunedin 12 months ago. It is, however, down on three years ago, when the Dominion was last held in Auckland, with 126 men’s fours involved that time.

Other comparisons make glum reading. In the singles, there are 288 men (Dunedin last year 352, Auckland last time 400), and 136 women (152, 200); the pairs have 210 men’s combinations (260, 294) and 106 women’s duos (112 and 154); while there are only 52 in the women’s fours (56, 70).

The problem also goes further, with only four of the 10 New Zealand players from the recent Asia Pacific event turning up. They are Leanne Curry, Genevieve Baildon, Dan Delany and Richard Girvan.

That is a shameful turnout although the noises coming out from Bowls New Zealand does suggest that future Dominions are a must-attend for any current or prospective international.

Hooray for that, especially with next season’s event being held here in Taranaki.

Delany and Girvan, who won gold in the pairs at the Asia Pacific, team up, and form a powerful quartet with Gary Lawson, who seems as determined as ever, and last year’s pairs winner, Chris Le Lievre. The other powerful pairing is that of Matt Gallop and Shannon McIlroy.

The no-show of Jo Edwards and Val Smith has created a huge hole in the women’s field and, given the smaller size, anything could happen there.

Taranaki have three fours teams in the women’s event – skipped by Gale Fache, Cathy Andrews and Val McEldowney. All look solid line-ups capable of qualifying. The same 12 players also link up in the pairs, where they will also be joined by Nellie Hewson and Trish Howard.

In five of her past six appearances at the Dominion, Andrews has advanced to at least the quarterfinal stage in one discipline, despite never contesting the fours. She may be off the national scene now, but Andrews could still be a force in the singles, although like her fours No3, Gloria Shaw, she has a tricky qualifying singles draw today with matches against last season’s runner-up, Amy Brenton, and the prominent Linda Ralph.

Debbie Smith will lead for Andrews in the pairs, while Carolyn Harris is the fourth member.

McEldowney teams up with Elaine Hodge in the pairs and they are joined by Eileen Rothwell and Margie Carey for the blue ribbon event.

Fache forms a likely looking combination in the pairs with Kath Brown and their four includes Denise Cottam and Janice Ropitini.

Taranaki’s best hope of success in the men’s event would seem to be Dean Elgar, a semifinalist in Dunedin, and Craig Johns in the pairs. They have a draw that will keep them honest in section play, while both players should be competitive in the singles. Elgar then skips a four comprising Gerry O’Sullivan, who will play in the singles but not the pairs, and John Garrud and David Bennett. The four have struck a tough section, although that is balanced by Garrud and Bennett having easier draws in the singles and pairs.

The final Taranaki four is headed by Don Christensen and includes Brian Kjestrup, Alan Batley and Ian `Spud’ Andrews.

The men begin with pairs qualifying today and tomorrow, followed by singles qualifying on Friday.

The women start with singles today, before two days of pairs. The fours start on January 5.”

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