A boys' road trip to New Plymouth to play in the Taranaki Open fours bowls tournament had its challenges, but these haven't prevented four Western Australian mine workers having a ball.
The Wayne Ramanui-skipped four were playing their first Taranaki Open and representing the South Hedland Bowling Club, a suburb of Port Hedland and 1800km northwest of Perth.
With four wins from seven games in section play, the four came up two wins shy of qualifying for post-section play.
That wasn't worrying the "social bowlers" yesterday as they took a break to gulp down a pint of beer between ends in their match against a Pakuranga four.
"My skip [Ramanui] insists I go and get a beer. I'm playing horrible bowls," said lead Scott MacGregor on his way to the bar at Fitzroy Bowling Club.
"Wayne told me about this tournament about 15 months ago and we've been planning this trip since," MacGregor said.
"We've had a great time. It took us 10 days to get here from WA. We hired a car when we arrived in Auckland and we were stopping at different places along the way playing bowls."
Overnight stays at Thames, Whakatane, Taupo, Wanganui and Hawera followed before they arrived in New Plymouth in time for the start of the competition on Monday.
"So we've done a big road trip. It's been awesome," he said, adding his own boys' trip had suddenly been cut short.
"My missus has just flown over [from West Australia] and shows up here today. Gee, that surprised me."
Ramanui, the team skip, is from Wainuiomata, over the hill from Lower Hutt.
The locomotive driver works for mining giant BHP and commutes back and fourth from South Hedland to Wainuiomata on a fortnightly basis.
Ramanui said the speed of the Taranaki greens tripped his team up this week.
"At home the speed of the greens is between 13-15, while here they are 18 to 20. We've gone pretty well though and had some tight games."
He said playing conditions had been perfect and far more comfortable than they were used to in WA.
"Back home the temperatures are in the 40s and the monsoon has settled in.
"Yesterday they had 150 millimetres of rain over there," Ramanui said.
"This weather has been beautiful all week. The [New Zealanders] have been complaining about the hot weather . . . we've been saying ‘what are you talking about?' "
The South Hedland's team strip stood out on the greens this week. Emblazoned on the back of the players' shirts is a sand goanna, a large Australian monitor lizard commonly found in the north west.
There is every chance the South Hedland side will be back for next year's Open.
"All the teams we've played have been fantastic . . . so friendly. We definitely want to come back," was the call.
- Taranaki Daily News
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