Manawatu close to an honours pass for efforts at national champs
The wave of excited expectation following Manawatu bowlers at the nationals in Taranaki is finally over, with our last chances eliminated in the quarterfinals of the men's fours on Tuesday.
It was a very successful tournament for Manawatu and the Pat Horgan and Ray Lovie-skipped teams continued that success by making the last eight of the fours.
Horgan had Philip Skoglund, Graeme Cooley and Ross Ellery in front of him and they did extra well to hold a star-studded Richard Girvan four to 15-11 to complete a very successful nationals for all four players.
Former Manawatu bowlers Lovie and David Walker were joined by the Terrace End duo of Shane Rogers and Grant Simms in their last-eight match against Brian Baldwin, but a 21-9 margin shows the control the former international had on the game.
It was a good ending for the four, as only Rogers in singles had qualified in the earlier pairs and singles disciplines.
Our undoubted success story in the women's events was Northern's Mere Fryer, who was a semifinalist in the singles, a quarterfinalist in the pairs with Ra Walker, and also qualified in the fours - the only Manawatu women's team to do so although Feona Sayles reached the last eight in a composite team.
Fryer was actually a late replacement for Sheryn Blake so all the more meritorious.
A select few in the form of Cooley, Ellery, Skoglund, Horgan, Craig Gush, Tony Jensen, Cameron Nairne, Brian Schischka, Fryer and Sayles qualified in all disciplines which shows real consistency of form.
Another player who boxed above his weight was Colin Cherri who qualified with Trevor Butcher in the pairs and went three rounds in the singles post-section.
It was a most enjoyable tournament and Manawatu bowlers all but obtained an honours pass for performance. Unfortunately the cost of travel to Dunedin next season will probably dramatically restrict our entry.
■ Selectors Eric Watson and Viv Lozell have named their top sevens to represent Manawatu at the national intercentre in Auckland in March.
Teams are - Men: singles, Ross Ellery; pairs Mark Noble (s) and Craig Gush; fours Pat Horgan (s), Philip Skoglund, Barry Wynks and Chris Barrett.
Women: singles, Feona Sayles; pairs Mere Fryer (s) and Janeen Noble; fours Sheryn Blake (s), Anna Davis, Robyn Schischka and Georgie Kahui-Rogers.
I have heard some negative comment about the men's side, but don't agree with it. When you don't succeed, something different is required and I can see this team imposing itself more on opposing teams than last year's seven.
Form was very evidently a consideration in the women's selections and when Blake is fit again, the side will be as strong as is available.
■ I would have to rate the centre's open any-gender triples at New Year close to the failure category.
A one-green field is little more than a two-day gala. I still can't comprehend why the centre has abandoned the open singles and fours in favour of trying to create something for which there is no obvious demand.
Fifty-six Manawatu male bowlers will head to Taranaki in less than a fortnight to play the very popular open fours. That is a far bigger number than in a home event, so something is obviously missing in attraction. Players love the real games of 25 ends and it is a pity we aren't providing something similar.
■ Manawatu lost another top bowler just before New Year with the untimely passing of Takaro's Lawrie Gordon.
A "professional lead", Gordon had four centre titles to his credit at the time of his passing and missed the opportunity to collect his gold star when he and Wynks lost the final of the champion of champion pairs last season to Barrett and Bob Williams.
When Bob left us in October, Lawrie commented he was really glad he lost that final to give Williams his gold star as "I'll have many more opportunities". Prophetic words.
Blessed with a sense of humour as dry as a desert and an unfaltering disposition, Gordon will be missed by team-mates and opponents alike - he was that sort of a bloke - a genuine "good bastard" to use the vernacular Lawrie would use himself.
Another stalwart of bowls, Northern's Don Ryan also passed on about the same time. While he has been out of things for a little while, he was a popular man on the greens as he was in his previous life as a TAB agent.
Enjoy your bowls in the new year.