Centre-clustered programme leaves no time for clubs

GRANT HASSALL
Last updated 05:00 05/03/2014

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Regional playoffs take place in Wellington next week for each of the Taranaki open champions from this season.

The idea of provincial champions facing each other and then the regional winners advancing to a national final has some merit and since its institution in 2003 - with the exception of the no-go in 2010 - it has proved popular.

The opportunity to compete against similar-skilled players is fundamental to any real competition and the national club championship event ticks that box.

But I can't help feeling that the event, even for the positives, is doing very little for the development of the game.

The vast majority of players competing are above average and have ample opportunity to compete in an advanced arena elsewhere. But with regional playoffs at this time of the season, which is unavoidable, it results in a centre-clustered programme from October to February, with little time left for clubs.

The first event next week is the mixed pairs on Monday, which involves Hawera's Maureen Tamou and Rahotu's Des Lowry.

Based off recent changes announced by Bowls New Zealand, the national club championships will now be acknowledged as a second-tier event.

After feedback had been asked for and collated, it was resolved that only the national open championships - or the Dominion as it is best remembered - will count towards the gold star award.

The national club champs, the intercentre, the first division of the interclub, the mixed pairs and now-defunct Superbowls and Super eights all count towards a new silver star award. The six qualifying events have been back-dated to 1996 when the amalgamated men's and women's bodies formed Bowls New Zealand.

So far 11 men and 14 women have gained the necessary five points and will be retrospectively awarded their silver star. The late Annette Bell, who was part of the champion Waikato intercentre and Matamata interclub sides, heads the list with 10 points.

Rowan Brassey, Gary Lawson, Andy Curtain and Marie Watson are the only new star holders who also have a genuine national gold star as well.

There is an unfortunate Taranaki tale to all of this. Had the intercentre and interclub titles been backdated to their inauguration, then John Murtagh, John Lambert, and both Baldwins, Brian and Dave, would all have been entitled to it.

As it is, there are a sprinkling of Taranaki players who now find themselves with points towards a silver star.

A group have two points, these being Raewyn McEldowney, Cathy Andrews, June Ward, Ellie Goble, David Bennett, Peter Ranford, John Roberts and the late John Reid.

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Taranaki has long had a strong representation in the annual North Island men's Licensed Victuallers' event. While the tournament now fits comfortably on two greens, it remains an annual pilgrimage for a number of players.

This year's event was in Palmerston North, with honours going to local Lindsay Toms, a regular visitor to the TSB Bank Taranaki open fours. He required an extra end to beat the best from Taranaki, Oakura's Kerry McGovern and his side of Bruce Jackson, Andy Shearer and Adam Collins, who has returned to the game following an extended spell overseas.

- Taranaki

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