OPINION: The warm feeling of the sun on your back is a sure sign the bowling season is upon us and I would expect most clubs will formally open their seasons in the next three weeks.
While the new season has not officially begun, our women's five-year-and-under side has already played in, and won the annual hexagonal tournament at Wanganui. This is a splendid effort as they were in good company with Wanganui, Wellington, Hawke's Bay, Taranaki and Kapiti Coast.
Manawatu made a clean sweep of the first round and then held their form to retain the lead.
The five-year-and-under grade is one where Manawatu has struggled in recent years but this result would suggest these women have come of age. For the record the team was Michele Welsh, Trish Didham, Lindy Crawford, Beryll England, Ailsa Lindsay, Glenda O'Connor, Sophie Fisher, Caitlin Thomson, Tania Harris and Christina Bryan. Watch those names in the future.
■ We have a very different looking Bowls Manawatu executive and they have certainly produced a radically changed programme for the season.
The most fundamental change is that open events will no longer go on to regional and national finals.
Champion-of- champions events will all be decided before the end of February and the winners will go to the regional finals. This will dramatically change our club seasons and effectively mean the bulk of club titles will need to be decided before Christmas.
A point that worries me is that as there are far fewer pathways to a centre title, we will see one or two very stacked teams in each club and ordinary club bowlers are likely to feel they are only cannon fodder to the elite and not bother to enter.
Time will tell but with falling memberships, change has to happen. It will certainly mean big gaps in playing opportunity in the late summer and autumn but clubs need to be aware that is opportunity.
Interclub will also be played before Christmas and again interest will centre on the number of division one entries.
We had only three in the women's competition and four in the men's last season and I am not anticipating much change. With division two also going through to a New Zealand title, many clubs are targeting where they can be more competitive. I hear Te Kawau and Ashhurst men will combine for a division two team this year and I commend the initiative.
Regulations for the competition allow for clubs with fewer than 20 members of one gender to combine with a similar club. Clubs need to have their interclub entries in by September 30. I see five days have been put aside for interclub but we had it all over in two days last season.
■ There will still be some open centre tournaments held and the mixed 2-4-2 during Labour Weekend is the first of these to be contested. I commend the effort in attracting one of the game's greats, Peter Belliss, to enter. Unfortunately, I won't be able play in the event this year or early interclub as I have an appointment at Old Trafford that will take precedence.
■ When in Scotland earlier in the year I had the fortune to visit the Marchmount Bowling Club in Dumfries. I pulled into a bed and breakfast only to look over the fence and see bowls being played. The club has one green but 195 full playing members. When I inquired how they get through a full programme with one green, they were a little puzzled by the question. The brief answer was they maximise daylight and players are told, "don't enter if you can't play when required". A few of our posers could use such discipline.
I also admired the way they got on with the game. The skips gave precise and immediate instructions and all players crossed over briskly. Eighteen ends of fours were played by nine o'clock.
■ Bowls Manawatu has entered the world of social media by introducing a Facebook page. Apparently 150 have already joined for news and chat. Not for this old-fashioned luddite but I'm sure it has a place. No doubt a few tantrums will be played out.
■ Takaro ran a very successful winter competition on Saturdays and, believe it or not, they never lost a day through weather. I came off the bench to fill in a few times and thoroughly enjoyed the outings.
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