Gary Lawson has been welcomed back into the Bowls New Zealand fold, after a decade away.
The double world champion has been named in an overhauled high performance squad, with an eye to next year’s World Bowls Championships on the Gold Coast.
Lawson last played for New Zealand in 2009, when the Blackjacks four he skipped was accused of throwing an end at the Asia Pacific Championships in Malaysia.
He was then shut out of the international arena, while remaining a force domestically, amassing a record 13 national titles.
Bowls New Zealand head coach and selector Peter Belliss is looking forward to Lawson’s return, after the men return emptyhanded from the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
“He brings a wealth of experience and a mental toughness on the greens that perhaps hasn’t quite been there over the last couple of years,” Belliss said.
Gary Lawson is one of 10 men in the high performance squad, with reigning world champions Shannon McIlroy and Ali Forsyth the only survivors from the Gold Coast.
Paul Girdler has announced his international retirement, Mike Nagy has made himself unavailable for the first six months of the year and Blake Signal has missed out on selection.
“Blake has been a very good player for us, but on occasions hasn’t quite played as well as he would have liked,” Belliss said.
Signal has been named in the talent development squad “which means our coaches still work with him”.
Like Lawson, Jamie Hill has been recalled after a decade-long absence, while Andrew Kelly, Mike Kernaghan and Chris Le Lievre are also back in the national set-up.
There is also an injection of new faces in the men’s squad, with Seamus Curtin, Taylor Horn and Jordan King named for the first time.
Curtin has already had a taste of international action in the Bowls Premier League, while Horn and King have been called up after winning the men’s singles and pairs respectively at Carlton Cornwall earlier this month.
The women’s high performance squad is headlined by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jo Edwards and also features a mix of new and familiar faces.
Lisa Prideaux has been named for the first time, along with Sarah Scott.
Prideaux won the national women’s pairs title with long-time Blackjack Val Smith last week, while Scott made the semi-finals of the women’s singles.
Singles runner-up Selina Goddard has been recalled, as has Kirsten Edwards and Wendy Jensen, while singles champion Debbie White has been named in the talent development squad.
Peter Belliss and fellow selectors Phil Skoglund (convener) and Marlene Castle will now turn their attentions to picking the Blackjacks squad for the Asia Pacific Championships in June.
It doubles as a qualifying event for next year’s World Championships and will also be staged on the Gold Coast.
High performance squad:
Women – Tayla Bruce (Burnside), Jo Edwards (United & Pine Rivers), Kirsten Edwards (Stoke), Selina Goddard (Carlton Cornwall), Katelyn Inch (Oxford & Broadbeach), Wendy Jensen (Orewa), Lisa Prideaux (Merrylands), Sarah Scott (Te Rangi) and Val Smith (United & Merrylands)
Men – Seamus Curtin (Stokes Valley), Ali Forsyth (Nelson & Clayton), Jamie Hill (Eastbourne & Onehunga), Taylor Horn (Mangere), Andrew Kelly (Canterbury), Mike Kernaghan (North East Valley), Jordan King (Mangere), Gary Lawson (Eastbourne), Chris Le Lievre (Musgrave Hill) and Shannon McIlroy (Stoke)
Talent development squad:
Women – Cait Bassett (Burnside), Kimberley Hemingway (Hillcrest & Carlton Cornwall), Clare Hendra (Silverstream), Tessa Hocking (Burnside), Ashleigh Jeffcoat (Frankton Railway), Leeane Poulson (Papakura), Natasha Russell (Merrylands), Bronwyn Stevens (Te Rangi), Nicole Toomey (Victoria) and Debbie White (Hinuera)
Men – Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Gore), Keanu Darby (North East Valley), Bradley Down (Victoria), Tony Grantham (Browns Bay), Richard Hocking (Burnside), Caleb Hope (Gore), Ray Martin (Victoria), Finbar McGuigan (Stokes Valley), Daryl Read (Belmont Park), Alex Reed (Point Chevalier), Blake Signal (Stokes Valley & Nelson Bay), Rory Soden (Browns Bay), Aiden Takarua (Point Chevalier) and Mark Watt (Nelson Bay).