With Christmas dinner tucked away for another year and the New Years’ celebrations fading in to a distant memory, attention turns to the 2020 Summerset National Singles and Pairs, as hundreds of bowlers descend on Christchurch this week for the season’s premier showpiece.
This year marks the World Bowls Championships 2020 on the Gold Coast, and with that comes huge expectation for some of the country’s finest representatives to perform on the national stage in the coming days.
A glance through the field confirms the benchmark importance of the nationals, with the vast majority of New Zealand’s high performance squad and talent squad members among the mix for both the men’s and women’s disciplines.
Adding a new dimension to the event this year, the disabled singles and pairs will see a hard fought and impressive field, as competitors look to demonstrate some promising form heading into the IBD Disabled World Championships, also to be staged in Christchurch later in the year.
Both men’s and women’s singles champions Taylor Horn and Debbie White will be returning in a bid to defend their respective titles, while in the pairs, only the women’s champions in the form of Val Smith and Lisa Prideaux will have that opportunity – with Chris Lowe and Jordan King a noticeable absence in the field.
Also a noticeable absence among the Blackjacks is dual singles world champion Shannon McIlroy, who, along with wife Amy, has recently welcomed their new addition to the world, while recently recalled international Jamie Hill also remains out of the contest.
All other Blackjacks such as Ali Forsyth, Gary Lawson, Chris Le Lievre, Andrew Kelly, Mike Kernaghan, Jo Edwards, Kirsten Edwards, Katleyn Inch, Tayla Bruce, Selina Goddard and a whole host of former New Zealand representatives have booked their spot in the competition, and no doubt will be looking to leave a lasting impression on the Canterbury greens.
Combinations to watch in the men’s pairs include former winners in Forsyth and Lawson and Rob Ashton and Petar Sain, while other pairings such as Kelly and Richard Hocking, Pete Hodson and Shaun Scott, Horn and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Maurice Symes and Tony Grantham, James Pugh and Le Lievre, Kernaghan and Scottish international Ryan Burnett and the well-performed West Coaster Shane Pascoe with partner Jarrad Forsyth– all expected to progress through to post-section play later this week.
Strong pairings in the women’s field include Smith and Prideaux, Inch and Goddard, White and Ashleigh Jeffcoat, Clare Hendra and Bruce, Mandy and Angela Boyd, 2018 Dunedin champions Bev Morel and Sherrie Cottle and Jo Edwards and Kirsten Edwards, among many others.
But of course, as we have seen time and time again, the nationals has a somewhat convenient habit of bringing emerging stars to the spotlight and with a field full of provincial representatives, rising proteges and talented youngsters from around the nation. . . it’s fair to expect the unexpected.
The qualifying rounds of the Summerset Nationals will get underway from January 2 through to January 4, with the post-section play set down for January 5-8.
A daily video update will be brought to you by Kevin Hickland throughout the event on the Bowls New Zealand Facebook channel, with live streaming and written event coverage being picked up from the quarter-final stages onwards.
by Sam Morton