Taranaki's annual influx of bowlers has come early this holiday break. And it's a triple dose this time round.
Taranaki hosts the New Zealand championships which start on greens around the province today and continue daily through to January 9.
On January 21, the annual Taranaki Open Fours men's tournament starts, with the women's tournament the following week.
It's the first time the combined men's and women's nationals have been held in Taranaki. The women's tournament was last held in Taranaki in 1988, while the men's tournament has never been held in the province.
"The whole reasoning behind pushing to have the nationals here was to open up Taranaki to a whole new breed of bowlers who have never been here," said Bowls Taranaki chairman Neville Elliott.
"If they enjoy the nationals, like the greens and the hospitality, they'll hopefully want to come back for the Taranaki Open. If what we've got in place works with every club supporting us, it's set up for a good nationals."
Bowls New Zealand chief executive officer Kerry Clark said he had no doubts the tournament would be a success.
"I've no doubt about that. Taranaki is a bowls centre and New Plymouth is a bowls town."
"There was a strong desire from the Taranaki Centre to have the tournament there and we were very supportive of that request."
Clark said numbers stacked up well against last year.
"They're down a little but there's a wide spread of entries from all around the country and that's a good thing," he said.
"There's a lot on at this time of the year. The biggest issue is businesses are now seven days a week. There's no close-down period over Christmas-New Year."
The field of 144 for the women's singles is up eight on last season but the line-up is missing four of New Zealand's top players - Black Jacks Val Smith, Jo Edwards, Lisa White and Jan Khan.
White and Khan both have work commitments, while Edwards and Smith have seized the chance to catch up with family and friends.
In the fours, 56 teams have registered for the women's event compared with 52 last year.
Numbers in the men's field have dropped again.
Only 90 teams (down from 112) have entered the fours, with similar dips in the entries for the pairs (177 down from 210) and singles (280 down from 288).
Section play in the singles for the women begins this morning, with the men's action in the pairs.
Ready, set, bowl: Page 20
- © Fairfax NZ News
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