Black Jack set to don backpack
Despite having just experienced the high of coming off a world championship tournament with a bronze medal, New Zealand Black Jacks star Matt Gallop is still very much looking forward to his next challenge, his last in bowls for some time.
When the Hyundai National Bowls championships start at New Plymouth on Friday, Gallop will lead in the pair with fellow Black Jack Ali Forsyth.
Both have strong Marlborough connections. Gallop was born here and is registered with the Blenheim Bowling Club while Forsyth is registered with the Havelock Bowling Club.
The classy duo are also contesting the fours with Matt's father, Blenheim and Marlborough legend Lloyd Gallop, along with Gary Watson from the Stoke Club in Nelson.
Graeme Hood was originally going to play but a family illness forced his withdrawal, opening the door for Watson. All four will play the singles as well.
It will be the younger Gallop's last bowls competition for some time. In mid-February he is off overseas with his girlfriend from Blenheim, Sarah East.
"No more bowls after the Nationals for a while. Spend a bit of time with the missus. I've been away (playing bowls) a long time. I've been playing bowls for 13 years in a row and I'm having a break for a year."
Both Gallops are no strangers to national finals. Lloyd has already won two fours crowns with his son Matt, Forsyth and Hood in the team that triumphed in 2010.
Matt Gallop and Forsyth lost the pairs final in 2010 and the younger Gallop also settled for runner-up in 2008 with Chris Le Lievre.
Back home in Blenheim this week for Christmas, Matt Gallop said he always had one aim when he played. "The aim always is to win. It will be a bit of a different change of pace from the world championships. I've been to plenty of nationals before so I'm well used to it.
"It will be good to play with the old man again. I've played a few nationals with Dad. Ali and I have played heaps together now. It's always nice to get back and play on New Zealand greens and catch up with all the old faces."
The 25-year-old Black Jack played particularly well in the bronze medal-winning New Zealand triple and in the latter stages of the fours at the Worlds and is confident heading into Friday's action.
"I'd favour all disciplines. I like the fours. You get more in your team. It's a good team game, you take a lot of time, work on a game plan and build up the head. A lot of history in the fours."
New Plymouth is a great choice of venue, he believes. "The greens are lovely up in New Plymouth. A great venue. A lot of people are excited about it, a change from the big centres."
Lloyd Gallop and Watson will team up in the pairs.
The Gallop involvement doesn't end there. Matt's mum Jan is in a four with Glenda Bishop, Josie Uren, a Bowls NZ national coach from Marlborough and Lil George.
There are two other Marlborough fours attending, including three family members in one team, Ray and his sons Chase and Travis Bishop.
Also from the Riverside Bowling Club is the team of Ken and Calvin Hart, Craig McDonnell and Sanjhe Prasad.
The rock stars of New Zealand bowls will be out in force at New Plymouth.
As well as Gallop and Forsyth, fellow Black Jacks Shannon McIlroy and his fiancee Amy Brenton are playing, along with Richard Girvan and Mandy Boyd.
Peter Belliss and Rowan Brassey, two of the country's finest bowlers, are in action, along with last year's men's and women's singles champions Pete Hodson from Stoke and Leeston's Sandra Keith.
This is the 99th version of the men's event and the 68th women's nationals.
The Marlborough Express