The hexagonal representative fixture in Palmerston North this weekend is likely to catch the biggest interest as both the men's and women's Taranaki sides build towards the intercentre event.
The 10 men and 10 women in the Revital Fertilisers Taranaki lineup have much to play for. And the dress rehearsal will be needed, especially when the likes of Wellington have taken part in two recent representative fixtures.
With the intercentre event not until the end of March, there is still a lengthy period for the players to fine tune. I recall the great Taranaki men's Rothmans team of the late 1980s and John Lambert saying it was his priority to peak for that every season.
Hopefully, our elite players have the same mindset this season, but they do have a further obstacle to deal with. There is not a lot of competitive bowls on between now and the end of March. Yes, there are the regional playoffs. However, only five of the 20 players heading south on Saturday are involved in them.
That leaves only the champion-of-champions fours, perhaps some club championships and a selection of one and two-day tournaments for players to reach the desired level, which is far from an ideal preparation regime.
The New Plymouth club successfully hosted a capacity field of 16 teams of five players in the New Zealand Fire Service tournament last week.
Teams from all over the North Island attended. John Sextus' Toko side took the first-day honours, with Taranaki Gold's Jim Priest winning day two.
Priest's side took the overall honours, which continues the excellent results for that fine Oakura competitor in the event over a long period. Priest had a similar side with him, including Allan Bridgeman, Mike Wesley, Max Reesby and Noel Brookes.
In previous seasons, I have generally steered clear in this column of covering extended tournaments. Yet one can not deny the popularity of them.
One such event is the Goodwin fives at Hawera Park. They again drew a maximum field last week, although there was a recurring theme with Grant Anderson's Alton unit taking home the first prize. Anderson's team included his father Brian, brother Brendon, John Roberts and Bruce Phillips.
Tony Koubaridis' side, also from Alton, was second, followed by Allan Hunt from the host club.
The annual New Zealand men's chartered clubs event was held recently in Whanganui, with a field of 158 teams - down nearly 50 on the previous year in Tauranga.
Four Taranaki teams scored the necessary six wins from the eight qualifying games to qualify - John Ranford, Leo Drought, Graham Baxter and Richard Helms. Phil Todd, twice a runner-up in the Taranaki Open and also runner-up in the Dominion fours 25 years ago, skipped a strong Porirua team of Joe October, Gary Marment and Steve Glavas to the title. The event was last held in New Plymouth in 2008 and is almost certain to return in 2017.
Participants in the TSB Bank Taranaki open fours would recall the special prize draw. More than 600 entries were received, but there was more than a touch of sadness with the result.
The winning name to come out of the hat was a fine competitor from Tauranga South, Tim Dalton. Dalton won a bar to his gold star in Bay of Plenty and also won a cap as a rugby winger for his native England.
But he never knew of his last win, as he fell ill shortly after returning home from Taranaki and died on February 7.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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