As Bowls followers battled the horrendous gales to locate a worthwhile spectacle last weekend, probably very few thought to stop off at the abandoned top green at Takaro. If they had, they would have observed our Commonwealth Games players, Barry Wynks and Mark Noble, hard at work for hours on end as they gradually master the skills they will require. A very different mindset, backed up by distinctly different skills, is required to be competitive on the rough, lead-heavy and at times under-prepared greens that most countries in the world strangely choose to play on. It was encouraging to hear that Mark and Barry were joined at the weekend by Wellington’s Lisa White, a member of our Women’s Team, who was in the squad that journeyed to Glasgow to experience the foreign conditions in recent months. Sharon Sims is also giving generously of her time and ‘knowhow’. To be able to tap into the experience of a local player who has managed to earn medals in top Northern Hemisphere competition must be a big advantage. Centre President Phil Skoglund battled greens like these at Edmonton in 1978, leading to his biographer later being threatened with a libel suit for honestly reporting his opinion of the local surfaces! It’s comical now to read in ‘Mr Bowls’, the biography of Phil’s uncle T.T. Skoglund, how this country sent a team in total ignorance and completely unprepared to the Vancouver Empire Games of 1954. New Zealanders played on lightning-fast grass greens in those days, and our team were totally bewildered to find themselves competing on vast swards composed of something vaguely resembling buffalo grass.
The major fixtures of the weekend were of course the Hexagonal for Men and Women, which was endorsed by players and officials and will be continued into the future. The performance of both our teams was simply outstanding. The Women proved themselves equal to the powerful Wellington side and the Men just got home ahead of Wanganui, while both left the other four Centres battling for the minor places. The Men’s Singles players, Shane Rogers and Darryl Johnson, must deserve special mention for their lion-hearted exhibitions of skill and tenacity in seriously adverse conditions, finishing with a scarcely believable nine wins and a narrow loss from ten starts. Darryl’s immaculate weight control and Shane’s ability to fight back from substantial deficits were a highlight, but the combined achievement of both teams was huge. Then came the difficult process for the respective selectors of cutting back their successful teams to the seven players required. Viv Lozell’s Women’s team looks strong and experienced, with an in-form Feona Sayles providing the spearhead in the Singles. The Men’s side is a conservative selection by Terry Puklowski, who has preferred to call on the vast top-level experience of Philip Skoglund in the Singles, rather than gambling on Shane Rogers being able to step up to an even higher plane. Shane will be disappointed, but he’s in the team, and both Men and Women have the firepower to pull off a big result.
This weekend sees another chapter of the very successful Hospice Tournament at Northern with its associated auctions and raffles which Barry Gush continues to organise and run so well. If readers not already involved are keen to participate in any way in this worthy event, they should contact Barry or the Northern Club, even at this late stage.