Betting on a Wellington girl to win the national singles bowls title in Taranaki next week wouldn't be a frivolous investment.
And not just because Johnsonville's Mandy Boyd is a woman on a mission after finishing runnerup in all three disciplines in Auckland last year.
The TAB have installed three capital bowlers as its joint favourites along with defending champion Sandra Keith for this year's Open Championships singles.
Boyd, Kaaren Guilford (Johnsonville), Clare McCaul (Silverstream) and Keith (Dunsandel) are all paying $10 to emerge from the 144-strong field.
Throw in veteran Leigh Griffin and her daughter Kirsten (both Victoria), who are lumped in the next group at $12, and it's a dominant Wellington showing.
The lop-sided provincial favouritism is in part due to the absence of Black Jacks Val Smith, Jo Edwards and Jan Kahn, as well as another Wellingtonian, Lisa White.
Regardless, if anyone deserves to walk away from Taranaki with a title it's got to be Johnsonville's Boyd, who will again team up with Taradale-based sister Angela in the pairs and fours.
"I'm just looking forward to winning anything this year," Mandy Boyd said. this week. "Last year the pairs and singles were played on one day so I played and lost two finals in a day.
"After the pairs final I pretty much did start crying, but after the fours it just got ridiculous . . .
"I just started laughing. I was like, ‘oh my gosh I just lost three national finals in a row'."
The silver lining was that Boyd won the most consistent player award and if she can do that again she'll be a chance in all three disciplines.
As is often the case, combinations at the nationals have chopped and changed, but the Boyd sisters' four is a tried and trusted quartet after winning the national title two years ago in Dunedin.
Frankton Railway's Sue Burnand skips the lineup again with clubmate Leanne Curry the lead for the fourth nationals running.
The Birkenhead team that edged them out in 2011-12 is back with Carole Frederick, Ruth Lynch, Gayle Melrose, and Lisa Helming drawn in section three at Opunake.
Leigh and Kirsten Griffin are also in that section as part of a composite four skipped by Reen Stratford (New Lynn).
The Griffins will play together in the pairs, as will the Boyd sisters, though the composite pairing of Genevieve Baildon and Jan Shirley have not entered this year.
Wellington have a decent sized contingent heading north with 30 men and 22 women in the singles.
Stokes Valley's Blake Signal is likely to feature strongly after winning the pairs and fours titles last year.
He will defend his title in the pairs with Alvin Gardiner (Elmwood), but is part of a rejigged four after winning under skip Andrew Kelly (Canterbury) in Auckland.
Gardiner will skip Signal and his Stokes Valley clubmates Jason Puddick and Clint Carroll.
Kelly has a high-powered team again, favourites to back up as skip with Dan Delany (Onehunga), Chris Le Lievre (Onehunga) and Raika Gregory (Frankton Railway).
Signal might have a tough time in the singles after being drawn in a tough section that includes Le Lievre and Shaun Scott (North East Valley).
Perhaps Wellington's strongest hope might be in the pairs where Wilton's Lance Pascoe will lead for Black Jack Shannon McIlroy (Stoke) who has been installed favourite to win the singles crown.
The 99th edition of the popular tournament starts on December 28 and runs through to January 9 with Paritutu as the host club.
- The Dominion Post
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