With the national tournament starting later this month, bowlers will be eager to find form this weekend in the Taranaki pairs.
While entries have dipped - there are six fewer combinations in the women's event and the men are down 12 - most top bowlers have entered.
Heading the list in the Taranaki Daily News men's Christmas pairs are two West End duos, John Garrud and Gary Lilley, and Keith Sampson and Craig Johns.
The West Enders have failed to make an impression so far this season and will be seeking a return to form ahead of the national tournament.
Garrud and Lilley claimed the title last season, heading off Sampson and Johns in the final.
Another likely West End duo is Dennis Osborne and David Bennett, while Alton's Grant Anderson leads for Bruce Phillips. Paritutu's John Reid and Darren Goodin, both past winners, certainly have the ability to do better than the past three seasons when they have gone away empty-handed. Clubmates Mike Curd and Neville Elliott, the winners from two seasons ago, also return.
In the TSB Bank women's open pairs, Paritutu's Dulcie Bishop and Valda Rowan, who triumphed last December, will be looking to add to their outstanding record in the event.
Last season's runner-up skip, Maureen Tamou (Hawera), has a new partner this year, teaming up with Taranaki president Patty Symes.
Other likely pairings include those headed by Kristin Stampa (Hawera Park), Gale Fache (Vogeltown), Bev Robinson (Opunake) and Ellie Goble (Lepperton).
Both events will see four rounds of section play on Saturday. Those pairs winning three or more games will advance to Sunday's post-section games at Fitzroy (women) and West End (men).
While the players are on the countdown to the national tournament, all the clubs should be too. Part of the reason Taranaki applied to host the nationals was the desire of the board of Bowls Taranaki to showcase what the province has to offer.
Of course, the quality of the greens plays an important role in that function, but so too will the hospitality of the clubs. Bowls Taranaki has said it is up to the clubs to decide whether or not they put on morning and afternoon teas. But as the clubs will receive a green fee for each day of play, it will be a lost opportunity if the tradition of country clubs is not followed and the service provided at no charge to the players.
There were a few grumbles on Sunday at Hawera Park when the decision was made to continue with play in the men's Bill Smee event.
Conditions were not ideal but play was still possible and for my money it was the right call.
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