Kiwi bowls trio making rapid progress
Success in Glasgow will make the New Zealand women's triples team the perfect poster girls for the sport.
The trio of Mandy Boyd, Amy McIlroy and Selina Goddard are already the new faces of lawn bowls ahead of competing at the Commonwealth Games later this month.
McIlroy is 23, Boyd 22 and Goddard is 19 - further proof that lawn bowls is no longer a sport dominated by older players.
While Bowls New Zealand has done an excellent job in attracting younger players to the game, the general perception from an unaware public is that it's a game played by retired blokes and the blue-rinse set, who also prepare the scones and the teas.
Yet the inclusion of the trio of Boyd, McIlroy and Goddard has made the average age of the five-strong New Zealand women's team for Glasgow just 31 - 10 years younger than the team which contested the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi.
The three games newcomers will face far more experienced foes on Glasgow's Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre greens which are vastly different to the ones at home.
But Boyd, who will skip the triples, says she didn't believe the youngsters were at a big disadvantage.
''We may be younger than other teams, but we've all played a lot of bowls already in our careers,'' Boyd says.
The Christchurch-based skip won her first national title in the 2010/11 season and has been a national representative for the past three years. McIlroy was the national under-20 women's singles winner in 2008 and rapidly progressed to become the runner-up in the singles at the 2010/11 national open champs.
The trio - who will also compete in the fours in Glasgow along with Val Smith - have trod similar paths into the national side.
Boyd comes from a family of bowlers - her father played indoor bowls, her mum lawn bowls and older sister Angela has also represented New Zealand.
McIlroy was persuaded to play the game by her late uncle, former Central Districts cricketer Wayne Hodgson, while Goddard - who was first taken to a bowls club by her parents when aged four and began to play as soon as she could hold a bowl - admitted she's been given a little extra incentive to succeed when starting to play seriously in her early teens.
''My dad said he'd give me a thousand dollars if I could beat him in a game,'' Goddard says.
''I remember thinking just how much money that seemed like back then.
''He never told me if it would be in a specific game, but I checked my bank account one day and it was in there. I think he gave it as a reward for all the hard work I was putting in to get better.''
The trio all have partners that play bowls. McIlroy's husband Shannon will play the men's singles and triples in Glasgow, Boyd's partner Lance Pascoe is an excellent player while Gold Coast-based Goddard's boyfriend Sean Ingham is one of Australia's most promising young players.
Goddard admits there's plenty of bowls talk at the dinner table.
''I try and pick up all the tips that he gets from the Australian programmes - but I don't give him any of ours,'' she says.
- Waikato Times
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