Bowls New Zealand selectors have looked ahead to next year’s World Championships and beyond in naming three squads for international events this November.
Four changes have been made to the Blackjacks team which won four golds, two silvers and one bronze medal at the Asia Pacific Championships in June.
“We met with all the players in the high performance squads and detailed to them that we would give every player an opportunity to stake a claim for the World Championships and we’ve been true to our word,” convener of selectors Phil Skoglund said.
The selectors have been forced to make two changes for the Multi Nations and Trans Tasman tournaments, with double Asia Pacific gold medallist Shannon McIlroy unavailable as his wife Amy is expecting their second child, while Mike Kernaghan is busy with work commitments.
Andrew Kelly and Chris Le Lievre have been named to take their places in the New Zealand squad for the back-to-back events, which, like the World Championships, are being staged on the Gold Coast.
It is a recall for Kelly, while Le Lievre is poised to play for the Blackjacks for the first time, after being a member of several national squads.
“Andrew’s certainly stuck his hand up with recent performances, particularly over the last 12 to 24 months and deserves his spot,” Skoglund said.
Le Lievre’s selection was a closer call. “We just thought with Chris living on the Gold Coast he had the advantage that he could play on those greens in the lead-up.”
Tayla Bruce and Selina Goddard have also been recalled and will replace Kirsten Edwards and Wendy Jensen, who were part of the women’s four which won gold at the Asia Pacific Championships.
Edwards and Jensen will instead represent New Zealand in the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic, along with fellow national squad member Seamus Curtin and development player Ray Martin.
It is a quartet the selectors have picked with an eye to the next four year cycle.
“It’s an opportunity for them to perform on those slow greens, knowing that post next year’s World Championships all of the international events will be in the northern hemisphere,” Skoglund said.
A New Zealand development team has also been named, which will compete in its own Trans Tasman series on the Gold Coast.
It features national squad members Sarah Scott, Lisa Prideaux, Taylor Horn and Jordan King, along with Dean Elgar, who has been selected from outside the high performance and development squads to skip the men’s pair and four.
The selectors have conceded New Zealand “might be a little deficient” in the skipping area and have realised they “had to recognize Dean’s performances”.
“He’s had a very good two or three years and probably only just missed making the development squad earlier this year, and of course since then won the national fours,” Skoglund said.
Head coach Peter Belliss wants to see improvement at all the international events, despite the Blackjacks setting the bar high at the Asia Pacific Championships.
“We were pretty pleased with the results. Perhaps we weren’t quite as pleased with just how we played at times,” Belliss said.
“It’s very much a matter of being able to put in a high quality performance game in and game out, as that’s going to have to be the case at the World Championships if we’re to medal in those.”
He has also made it clear the Blackjacks squad for the Worlds is far from finalized.
“At times with the national side it appears it becomes a bit of a closed shop, but at the moment there are some places that are definitely up for grabs.
“We just need the players to take this opportunity they get with both hands and put some pressure on us as selectors to make some hard choices.”
Blackjacks for Multi Nations (18-24 November) & Trans-Tasman (25-27 November):
Women’s singles: Jo Edwards
Women’s pairs: Tayla Bruce & Jo Edwards (skip)
Women’s triples: Selina Goddard, Katelyn Inch & Val Smith (skip)
Women’s fours: Tayla Bruce, Selina Goddard, Katelyn Inch & Val Smith (skip)
Men’s singles: Andrew Kelly
Men’s pairs: Jamie Hill & Gary Lawson (skip)
Men’s triples: Chris Le Lievre, Andrew Kelly & Ali Forsyth (skip)
Men’s fours: Chris Le Lievre, Jamie Hill, Ali Forsyth & Gary Lawson (skip)
NZ development team for Trans-Tasman (25-27 November):
Women’s singles: Sarah Scott
Women’s pairs: Lisa Prideaux & Sarah Scott (skip)
Women’s triples: Tessa Lee, Bronwyn Stevens & Debbie White (skip)
Women’s fours: Tessa Lee, Lisa Prideaux, Bronwyn Stevens & Debbie White (skip)
Men’s singles: Taylor Horn
Men’s pairs: Jordan King & Dean Elgar (skip)
Men’s triples: Caleb Hope, Taylor Horn & Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (skip)
Men’s fours: Caleb Hope, Jordan King, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley & Dean Elgar (skip)
NZ team for Hong Kong International Bowls Classic (9-17 November):
Women’s pairs: Wendy Jensen & Kirsten Edwards (skip) (subject to availability)
Men’s pairs: Seamus Curtin & Ray Martin (skip)
Mixed pairs: Wendy Jensen & Ray Martin (skip) and Seamus Curtin & Kirsten Edwards (skip) (subject to availability)