Bowls life a good fit for Gallop

RAINING CHAPMPIONS: National title-holders Matt Gallop and Ryan Bester, cool off at the Blenheim Bowling Club yesterday.
RAINING CHAPMPIONS: National title-holders Matt Gallop and Ryan Bester, cool off at the Blenheim Bowling Club yesterday.

Matt Gallop is on course to realise his dream of playing for the New Zealand Black Jacks bowls team this season if recent form is any gauge.

The 23-year-old former Blenheim Bowling Club player and Marlborough representative completed a memorable national championships at Dunedin last week when he won the fours with his father Lloyd Gallop from Blenheim, Graham Hood and Ali Forsyth from Havelock.

Earlier, he was runner-up in the pairs with Forsyth for the second time in his career, and got down to the last 16 in the singles competition, being named the most outstanding male competitor at the tournament.

He is one of the rising stars of New Zealand bowls and for the last five years has been a New Zealand under-25 rep.

Gallop left Marlborough to play for the Eastbourne Club in Wellington and about 18 months ago decided on another shift – to the Cabramatta Club in Sydney, a move he certainly doesn't regret.

Speaking yesterday while home visiting family and friends, Gallop said, "I went over there on my own accord. I wanted a bit of a change. It has improved my bowling. It has to. You play against the world's best week in week out. You can't help but improve."

Cabramatta play interclub in New South Wales and interstate competitions and, as well as Gallop, the club has world-class stars Peter Bellis, Rowan Brassey, Andrew Todd, England Commonwealth Games gold medallist David Holt plus former world champion and current New Zealand pairs champion, Canadian international Ryan Bester.

Gallop shares a house with Bester and Brassey.

"We are one of the strongest clubs in the world, but there are a couple of other Aussie clubs just as strong, " Gallop said.

Cabramatta has 150 male members, about 60 females and nearly 3000 social members, with bowls being played all year round.

Gallop said playing year round kept him sharp without having to come back each year from a four-month break.

Winning the fours was especially satisfying after losing two previous pairs finals, including this year's decider with Forsyth against Bester and Chris Le Lievre, who played with Gallop when they lost the pairs final two years ago.

His decision to play bowls came in 1998 when he watched his father, Lloyd, along with Andre Smith, Bob Dowling and Kevin Greenwood win the national fours in Wellington, so he said it was especially pleasing to be able to share this one with his father on the greens.

He felt the nationals were as tough as ever this year. "It's always tough. You strike all kinds of conditions you are not quite used to. You could play really good one day on one green and go to another the next day and it's totally different.

"You've got to have a bit of luck, but it's never easy."

As for his chances of making the Black Jacks this year, Gallop isn't counting his chickens. "I don't know. They have selected me to play with Ali (Forsyth) in the pairs at the Australian Open next month, so I guess that's not a bad indication, but I guess you just wait and find out."

Gallop works part time at the Cabramatta Club. He is enjoying life in Sydney and has no plans to move in the near future.

Twenty-six year-old Bester is staying with Matt at the Gallop family home this week and loves coming to New Zealand.

The talented Canadian is one of the world's best, having won the world pairs' title in Scotland in 2004 and a singles' bronze medal at the 2008 worlds.

He is a regular visitor to New Zealand, having played in six nationals and winning two titles – the pairs this year and in 2008.

Bester also rates the nationals as a very tough event to win.

"You have to win nine to 11 games in a row. It's a big feat to win a title. Matt (Gallop) has made three finals. That's not easy. I still rate it one of the hardest events to play in. So many different greens and so many good players."

Bester made his debut for Canada in 2002, was dropped the next year and regained his place in 2004 before going on to win the world pairs.

He always enjoys coming to New Zealand. "It's like my Christmas vacation here now."

Gallop's long-term goal is to play in the World Bowls Championships for New Zealand in Adelaide in 2012 but this weekend he's got another mission in Christchurch.

He and Bester are teaming up for the Burnside Invitation pairs in the same section as Matt's father Lloyd and Smith.

The Marlborough Express