Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jo Edwards is returning to play in New Zealand for the first time since winning the women’s World Champion of Champions singles title in Sydney last year.
Edwards, who lives in Brisbane, headlines the Blackjacks team for the ninth edition of the $100,000 Bowls Premier League (#BPL09), starting on Monday (February 25) at the Naenae Bowling Club in Wellington.
“It’s always good coming home and hopefully we get a heap of local support there,” Edwards said.
“It’s pretty hard playing the BPL over here [Brisbane], being the only Kiwi team in the competition…you get a bit of the Aussie stick.”
Men’s singles world champion Shannon McIlroy and up and coming Wellington talent Seamus Curtin, 18, complete the New Zealand team, which will be vying with seven sides from around Australia for the $25,000 winners’ cheque.
“Seamus is a great kid. He’s going to be a big star of the game,” Edwards said.
McIlroy returns to the Blackjacks’ BPL team, having been part of the only New Zealand trio to win the title in 2015.
But Edwards is well aware how difficult it is to reclaim the crown, as one of just six bowlers to have played in more than 100 BPL matches.
“It’s just such a hard tournament to play in. I can’t state that enough.
“It’s not one where you can go out and say this team is going to win.
“It’s a crazy tournament, but it’s a really enjoyable one because you get to play with and against some amazing players.”
In addition to the best that New Zealand and Australia has to offer, #BPL09 features a who’s who of international bowls, including Scottish great Alex Marshall (Brisbane Pirates) and decorated Canadian Ryan Bester (Moama Murray Steamers).
“I feel like a little kid in a candy store when we play Alex,” Edwards said.
“You’re playing against the world’s best and it’s exciting. It’s a great way to gauge where you’re at with your own game.”
It is the third straight year a BPL event has been staged in New Zealand and the second year running at the Naenae Bowling Club.
The Gold Coast Hawks won last year’s tournament in Wellington, but the Brisbane Pirates, guided by former Blackjacks coach Dave Edwards, won the most recent event, BPL08.
#BPL09 is a double round-robin tournament and starts on Monday night (February 25), with the playoffs on Thursday evening (February 28).
Each night session will be broadcast LIVE on SKY Sport, with day session coverage on the Bowls NZ Facebook page.
Entry to the event is free.
What is the Bowls Premier League (BPL) and what are the rules?
The BPL is a competition created and run by Bowls Australia (BA) that is now in its seventh year and ninth instalment.
The event is a modified version of traditional bowls, with lightning fast matches making for a ’Twenty20′ type format of the sport.
Each match consists of two five-end sets, with a one-end tie-break played if required. The game format pairs, with three bowls for each player per end. If a tie-break is required to decide the winner, all players on both teams will join the fray, with the format changing to two-bowl-triples for that end.
BPL teams will be able to nominate one Power Play end per set, enabling teams to earn double the shots scored in that end.
A team coach can replace a player with a substitute during the game, but only immediately preceding the delivery of a bowl by their team player.
Who are the teams?
Brisbane Pirates – Alex Marshall, Michael Breen, Kelsey Cottrell, Dave Edwards (Coach)
Gold Coast Hawks – Aron Sherriff, Nathan Rice, Georgia White, Matthew Lucas (Coach)
Illawarra Gorillas – Jeremy Henry, Aaron Teys, Kay Moran, Wes Falconer (Coach)
Moama Murray Steamers – Ryan Bester, Michael Walker, Ellen Ryan, Wayne Turley (Coach)
Melbourne Roys – Aaron Wilson, Barrie Lester, Carla Krizanic, Ian Ewing (Coach)
New Zealand Blackjacks – Shannon McIlroy, Seamus Curtin, Jo Edwards, Richard Girvan (Coach)
Perth Suns – John Slavich, Shane Knott, Kristina Krstić, Pieter Harris (Coach)
Sydney Lions – Ray Pearse, Ben Twist, Karen Murphy, Steve Glasson (Coach)