NZ take solid prep into hunt for world titles
New Zealand's Black Jacks begin their bowls world championship quest on happy and familiar hunting grounds in Adelaide today as one of the most well-prepared of the 27 nations vying for titles.
They should encounter few surprises at the Lockley and Holdfast Bay bowling clubs, having first experienced the vagaries of the venue's rinks in pressure situations at last year's Asia Pacific championships.
New Zealand's close proximity to South Australia has enabled squad members to also compete in the state competition and by setting up their base last Sunday the 10-strong team has been able to update its pre-existing knowledge.
Richard Girvan, Val Smith, Jo Edwards and Jan Khan enjoyed golden moments on the greens at the AsiaPac tournament last December, while fixtures in the men's four, Tony Grantham and Ali Forsyth, won silver alongside their skip, Girvan.
New Zealand has also built an excellent record at world championship level since the first men's event, at Sydney in 1966; the women were hosted by the same city in their world championships debut three years later.
The Kiwis have recorded 16 gold medals to Australia's 13 and another classic trans-Tasman sporting contest is expected to unfold until the final bowl is delivered on December 9.
Smith and Edwards, the reigning world pairs' champions, spearhead the women's team while England-born Edwards is attempting to win the event for the third time. She combined with Sharon Sims at Leamington Spa in 2004 and then reigned supreme with Smith in Christchurch four years ago.
Smith is also tasked with retaining her singles crown while veteran Khan hopes to add to the triples gold she claimed at Moama in 2000, the last time Australia hosted the world championships.
Karen Murphy should offer stiff opposition to Smith in the singles while former champion of champions winner Kelsey Cattrell and Rebecca Quail are likely to threaten Edwards' hopes of a three-peat.
The men's draw is also expected to produce more neighbourly spats after New Zealand (Girvan/Danny Delaney) won the AsiaPac pairs by a point and Australia struck back in the fours.
Grantham, Matt Gallop, Forsyth and Girvan start their campaign against England in the opening round at Holdfast Bay and also play Ireland in the afternoon.
Smith and Edwards get an early look at their Aussie rivals in game one before they presumably face an easier assignment against the Canadians.