Focusing on the positives a priority this season

Bowlers will notice a new name and photo at the top of this column. I've agreed to write regularly about our sport at least until the end of this season.

Most of us are well aware of the huge problems bowls now faces, primarily in the form of the seemingly unstoppable slipping away of membership numbers and consequently tournament entries throughout the country.

My two predecessors in this role have spent time analysing these crucial issues very accurately and searching for solutions which sadly remain elusive.

I intend to ignore that particular elephant in the room and focus on many of the positive aspects of the game we all enjoy at various levels and for various reasons.

It's just a real shame that so many sports-minded people haven't yet realised the challenges available in bowls and continue to undervalue it.

■ The recently completed Manawatu men's open pairs experimented with a timing and format which worked very well.

Full marks to the centre executive. I remain hooked on the two-life system, but this event offered five substantial matches to every entrant and, when the ‘nitty-gritty' came around, a credible format for the knockout stages.

I applaud the seeding of the draw, which gave the best-performed teams a possible edge in the knockout draw. Pat Horgan, Terry Johnson and partners may not agree, as both disappeared immediately, but it's that vulnerability of the top players that keeps the lesser lights out there trying.

The defending Horgan-Gilshinan combination in particular drew a real ‘banana-skin' game against very dangerous locals, Brian Looker and Scruff Anderson, who had sneaked in as bottom qualifiers.

The ultimate win to our recently-ordained Commonwealth Games reps in Barry Wynks and Mark Noble was a fine and timely achievement.

Mark is now really starting to show us why he is one of the most decorated bowlers in the history of the Wellington centre, while Barry brings his unique brand of cunning and intense competitiveness to the game.

No detail relative to the green, his opponents or his own performance escapes Barry, and I'm sure he will go on to add multiple bars to his gold star in the future.

■ Results from the nationals become more ignored by the media every year with the singles and pairs finals not rating a mention on TV One News and being drowned by cricket on radio.

Feona Sayles was there though, and once again she featured in the latter stages of both singles and pairs. Well done, Feona.

It was great to see teenage finalists, even if both lost, in the men's and women's singles. Ali Forsyth's third singles victory, thanks to a sensational last bowl, provides further proof he has an all-round game at at a high enough level to put him already somewhere among our best ever players.

Three singles titles now puts him equal to Professor Maxwell Walker, but still two adrift of our own Phil Skoglund.

■ That uniquely appealing tournament, the Taranaki open fours, is now on the horizon, and I know the organisers are very disappointed to have dropped another 20 teams in a year where they hoped to capitalise on hosting last year's nationals.

Manawatu is sending nine teams and two have a big chance. Wynks and Noble, with the two Terrys, Curtis and Rossiter, fell only at the semifinal stage last year to Brian Little's Palmerston North team that has reached two finals in the past three years.

Both are returning intact and with intent.

Manawatu men's selector Terry Puklowski has yet to finalise his teams for the quadrangular at Kapiti Coast later this month, but Viv Lozell has announced the following women's teams.

A team: Mere Fryer in singles. Sheryn Blake and Georgie Kahui-Rogers in pairs, Chris Quinn, Liz Rossiter, Tina Vartha and Lynlea Rogers in fours.

B team: Janeen Noble in singles, Anna Davis and Juliette Mills in pairs, Sue Meyer Julie Palmer, Jacinta Cousins and Robyn McGregor in fours.

Manawatu Standard