Bowling on with life despite their health worries

Cliff Mitchell-Burnard and his team of bowlers from the Te Kuiti are your real life battlers.

All four are just happy to be playing bowls.

A couple of years ago, Mitchell- Burnard's days on the green looked numbered, with the Te Kuiti skip battling cancer.

The other three have all had their scares. Number three Keith Waghorn has battled prostate cancer, Mitchell-Burnard's father- in-law Gary Snellgrove has had a stroke, while lead Peter Lange has No 1 diabetes.

"We're a roving chemist shop. The breakfast table is covered in pills. It's no wonder we've got a minister with us," he said referring to "Father Ted" Hamilton in one of the other Te Kuiti teams.

But there's no stopping this team. They posted their sixth wins yesterday morning to join the list of qualifiers for post-section in the Taranaki Open fours men's bowls tournament.

Mitchell-Burnard said he was fighting fit.

"I had chemo, radiation, stem cell replacement, the lot. I had it just before I played in the 2010 tournament, I was just starting to lose my hair that tournament," said the 60-year-old.

Incredibly, Mitchell-Burnard and his team made it through to the final three years ago, only to lose to Ian Dalton and his team from Tauranga South.

"The health is good now. I can have a beer or two. You have to live life." And that he's doing, enjoying bowls with his mates.

"We've had the same team for the last seven years. I've been playing on and off in this tournament for more than 25 years. I wouldn't miss it.

"We rent the same house every year and have already booked it for next year." Mitchell-Burnard said the Te Kuiti club was represented by three teams in the TSB Bank-sponsored tournament this year.

"That's the most we've ever had. We've got a dozen junior bowlers up there and we'll probably have four teams next year. The new guys are absolutely loving the tournament."

Yesterday, Mitchell-Burnard chalked up their sixth win when they beat a Kaitaia team skipped by Waitara's John Niwa at the Fitzroy greens in New Plymouth.

"Johnny was filling in for them when one of them was sick," said Mitchell-Burnard. "I was born in Waitara and I know Johnny well. I'll be playing with him at the New Zealand Chartered Clubs' tournament in Tauranga in two weeks."

Taranaki Daily News