OPINION: No sooner than national club centre titles have finished, we are straight into champion of champion events.
I always relish these events, which feature David versus Goliath contests and there have been some colossal upsets over the years – none more so than when the minnows from the Woodville club beat Northern in the men's fours final in the 2007-08 season. The win by John Lawrence and Rob Turner of Ashhurst in the 2003-04 pairs is another.
He may not have won it, but the late John Harris, from the tiny Kimbolton club, came to town in the singles in the same season only to lose the final to Stephen Love, of Te Kawau.
We have seen many upsets throughout the centre's season and we can expect more of the same in the singles on Saturday. Often two big names will draw each other first up and after draining each other in a cliffhanger, the winner will fall to a lesser-known player next up.
In the men's singles final at Northern on Saturday it was two unfancied players from country clubs who came through to contest the final. You would have had odds of at least 20-1 on either Brian Schischka (Johnston Park) or Scotty McGavin (Bulls) at the beginning of the tournament. One of the remarkable occurrences was that Brian's wife, Robyn, won the women's singles this season.
Couples such as Viv and Colin Lozell and Sue and Des Meyer have featured in the teams disciplines in the same season, but singles is something else and I can't see any other couple who have performed the double in the last 30 years, which is as far back as I can cover.
While reminiscing on past greats it is well to remember some of the greater family connections among Manawatu bowlers.
The Skoglunds lead the way of course with Phil (the current Old Skog) one of the game's ultimate legends. His father, Phillip Oscar, and sons Phillip and Raymond, along with young Phillip's son, Ryan Khan, are all outstanding bowlers and of course other family connections have starred in other centres.
The Sellars were a great dynasty led by Vic and his sister, Joyce Osborne, and of course another sister, Pearl Diamond, was a supreme achiever in Taranaki. Vic's son, Wayne, was another topliner, and current representative bowler Chris Barrett is a Sellars' descendant.
The Galloways are another family of dynastic prominence. Ken and Royce were followed by their children, Stan and Sue (Meyer), and the next generation includes Michael Galloway and the Meyers Russell and Ian, all top-flight bowlers.
Terry Puklowski and Lyn McLean are brother and sister and, more latterly, we have had Peter Lambert and daughter Desiree.
* Palmerston North tell me their Mates in Bowls is going very well, attracting 80 to 90 non-bowlers each week. The aftermatch turnover and other fundraising opportunities makes it all worthwhile even if it is extra pressure on organising members.
Johnston Park club runs a more traditional twilight competition with a mixture of bowlers and non-bowlers and 22 fours play each week. These types of competitions have a real place in the game and my view is we need to somehow replicate golf's green fee play.
* I am sad to report playing numbers in Manawatu have dropped significantly again this season. There are 862 players compared with 964 last year, 999 the previous year and 1083 in the 2008-09 season. At this rate, the game will be extinct in Manawatu in 10 years.
Palmerston North (184 to 157), Northern (97 to 85) and Johnston Park (101 to 87), have all suffered in the last year, while the only clubs to grow were Hokowhitu, increasing by two to 66 and Kimbolton, increasing by one with 16 members.
Where are they all and why? If the baby boomers are supposed to solve dwindling membership where are they? There is no one answer, but I believe the game still takes too long, some bowlers lack sporting integrity which is off-putting and much about the game is unattractive to modern generations.
All bowlers have been invited to Bowls New Zealand roadshows at Palmerston North Bowling Club on March 28. Players, clubs, centres and Bowls NZ all have to work together to attract bowlers.
* Long-time secretary of our centre Irene Reilly advised me this week she will be retiring at season's end. We will farewell her at an appropriate time, but anyone who would like to consider this part-time paid role please contact me.
* At the end of the national club fours at the weekend, Peter Dellabarca spoke on behalf of the losing team and made a plea for bowlers to return to the way we used to play, the inference being sportsmanship should come first and that questionable tactics don't belong in the game. I couldn't agree more.
- Manawatu Standard