Tony Penn relishes thrill of the bowls green

GLENN MCLEAN
Last updated 05:00 24/01/2014
Tony Penn
CHARLOTTE CURD/Fairfax NZ
BOWLS CONVERT: Former Taranaki rugby captain Tony Penn is hooked on his new sport.

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Tony Penn's competitive streak has been well and truly transferred from the footy field to bowling green.

The former Taranaki rugby captain, who played the last of his 117 games for the province in 2009, has made a successful transition from the front row to the more passive game having already played representative bowls at junior level.

He got into the sport having being impressed with the style of his great uncle Laurie Penn on the greens at Whanganui and admitted he has been hooked ever since.

"I used to always watch the open fours and go along and watch bowls, so once I finished my footy I thought, well, I don't like golf and I always want to play bowls and play something competitive, so that was that," he said.

The 35-year-old has been playing lead for his West End side, skipped by Neil Candy and includes Taranaki selectors Alex McKay and Dennis Osborne, at this week's Taranaki Open fours tournament, with his team qualifying for post section yesterday morning after they picked up their fifth win.

The welcoming nature of his club and fellow competitors led Penn to say bowls had been one of the most enjoyable things he had ever been involved in.

"In terms of camaraderie, the competitiveness, it's just fantastic. It's something that you want to get your mates involved in, plus there's cheap grog," he joked.

Into his third year playing with the same team at the open tournament, the former Hurricanes and New Zealand Maori prop was keen to give the game "a good crack" and go as far as he possibly could.

"Obviously I play it for the social side but I'm so competitive, I just can't help it. With bowls, you're learning every day and I'm learning big time.

"It's a bloody tricky game and I have been known from time to time to sneak away [from work] if it's a nice morning and head up to the club and have a roll up."

Candy has been more than impressed with Penn's attitude and ability.

"He's got enthusiasm for the game that is unrivalled," he said.

"He just loves it and it's infectious because he's bloody competitive, he certainly hasn't lost that from his rugby days."

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