Gender-bending with new selectors

Bowls Manawatu has defied bowling traditions by appointing representative selectors across the old gender lines.

Sharon Sims, one of New Zealand's most decorated women's players, will coach and select the Manawatu men's team.

And Eric Watson, a bowler for 54 years, has switched from about seven years with the men's team to select the women's side.

It all seems to have been done amicably. Recently-retired Bowls Manawatu president Phil Skoglund broached the idea with Sims about replacing last year's selector, Terry Puklowski, who stood down.

Sims said when bowlers see the names in the centre handbook, many might think it is a misprint.

Watson had never considered it until a delegation of women players arrived at his home one day.

His reaction: "I said, ‘oh my God, I don't know about that'."

The women didn't waste time. They plonked an application form in front of his nose and he signed it.

Watson has had a season off after being the men's selector. He is proud to have led them to two New Zealand intercentre titles and runner-up in his last year, in Auckland.

"I'm going to try to achieve what I did with the men," he said.

He wants to instil harmony among the leading women and will have Viv Lozell, one of the selectors last season, as his manager.

Watson's appointment is not a cross-gender first. Skoglund himself did it three years ago.

However, having a woman guide the men is breaking new ground.

Sims felt with her coaching background she was ready to do something different.

"I see it as a coach who selects, rather than the other way around," she said. "There has been a tradition of selector-managers in bowls and that seems to be changing.

"I have done a few coaching sessions with the guys before and they seem to appreciate what I can bring to it."

She enjoyed worked with Manawatu's Commonwealth Games bowlers, Mark Noble and Barry Wynks, in their training for Glasgow.

Sims will take advice around selecting, especially in the 5-years-and-under area. She also sees herself being in the role for more than one year.

"It is something you need to do for more than one season."

For the second season Sims won't be playing bowls. "I'm not saying never," she said. "I'm happy at the moment."

Pat Horgan has been an established old hand in the Manawatu men's team and said Sims' appointment was the best news he had heard in a long time.

He feels she will bring modern facets into representative bowls, like nutrition and debriefing.

"Little things make the big picture in modern-day sports. I'm confident she will do the job with honesty and integrity, rather than listen to everyone," Horgan said. "There will be some nervous people because she won't muck around."

Next the centre and teams must raise the $12,000 to get the teams to Christchurch for the national intercentre event.

Don Sones withdrew his application for men's selector before the interviews took place.

Manawatu Standard