Southland will have a good presence at the national bowls championships that start today in Dunedin.
Twenty-seven Southland women will take part, while 38 men will endeavour to bring back to Southland the first men's title since the glorious pairs triumph of Dave Burgess and the late Colin Galt in 1980.
Balfour's Averil Fowler and Sue Kincaid, the current national club champs, will play in just the pairs and there is still a good contingent in the women's singles, including Maree Jones (Waverley) and Pam Calder (Invercargill).
In the men's pairs, two Te Rangi combinations, John Flynn and Graham Low, and Steve Sanders and Earl Doidge, should give a good account of themselves, as should Andrew MacGregor and Darren Broome (Hokonui) and Glenn Milne and Roger Stevens (Waikiwi).
The Waikiwi duo will be skipped in the fours by Craig Merrilees, who could be a dark-horse in the singles field. Youngster Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Gore) will have a grand opportunity to push his case in the fours when he teams up with former international, Ken Walker (Taieri).
Shona Klimeck (Gore RSA) will not attempt to repeat her 2004 singles win, instead focusing on the pairs and fours, where she has a useful side.
Central Otago bowlers will also feature prominently at the national championships with 31 in the field, including Alexandra's record title-holder, Bill Clements, who is a late entry in the singles.
Pat Houlahan (Alexandra) teams with West End's Barrie Andrews, while another likely Alexandra pair is Trevor Drake and Martin Kreft. Jane Anderson (Queenstown) is the only central women in the singles, but the fours sees two sides, skipped by Imela Holdom (Alexandra) and Margaret O'Connor (Queenstown).
With the added incentive of selection for next year's Commonwealth Games, the championships have attracted a glamorous field.
All of the 14 internationals who took part in the Eight-Nations event in Scotland in August are in the field.
And with only five men and five women being selected for Glasgow, it's not hard to understand why all 14, and plenty of other fringe players, are heading to the championships.
It is the first time for many years that the national championships, which remain the pinnacle of bowls in New Zealand, have attracted such a uniform attendance from the top lawn bowlers in the country.
That feature more than offsets the small decrease on last season's championship in Taranaki.
The women start with singles today, and a new champion will be found, after New Plymouth's Val McEldowney was a late withdrawal from the field of 132.
- The Southland Times