A final shakedown before the National Intercentre Championships!
That’s how Wairarapa men’s selector Lester Dee and his female counterpart Tanya Wheeler are viewing the Lower North Island Octagonal Tournament starting this afternoon in Whanganui.
Both teams will come up against some strong competition and meet traditional powerhouses Wellington, Manawatū and Taranaki, as well as Hawke’s Bay, Gisborne-East Coast, Kāpiti, and the hosts over the three days.
Dee has retained pretty much the same team that finished a credible third at last month’s quadrangular tournament in Kāpiti, with the only changes coming in the singles, where the in-form Peter Walker replaces the unavailable Mathew Day, and in the triple, where Roger Smeaton takes over at lead.
“Peter has been playing reasonable singles, and Matt Day couldn’t play because he couldn’t get the time off, and we’ve stuck with the same four and the same pair,” Dee said.
“I’ve tried to keep the four together and work on their game, and the pair with Ian Monaghan back has been a real bonus for us, and that’s good.”
The men showed some encouraging signs at Kāpiti and were leading after two rounds before Manawatū and Wellington finished stronger. Dee expects to see more improvement in Whanganui, although he is concerned about the conditions the teams are likely to face, with the pairs and fours playing at Aramoho on grass and the pairs and triples playing at Wanganui East on what he believes is an artificial surface.
“It’s the next step to the big one; however, we’re playing on some fairly ordinary surfaces in Whanganui, so it’s whether it’s going to be a really good one, I don’t know because of the playing surfaces.”
Dee feels that consistency across the disciplines is the team’s strength, and he is confident of a good showing as long as the players stay in the hunt in every game.
“If we’re going to lose, lose closely and if we’re going to win, win well,” he said.
“We finished fourth last year, so an improvement from that would be good.”
Wheeler has made some key changes in search of improvement from last month’s quadrangular tournament, in which Wairarapa finished in fourth and last place, with two players from the development team for players with one to eight years experience called up to the open team.
Stacey Smyth takes over as lead in the pair, and Jill McLean comes in as lead in the four, and Wheeler is confident they can both handle the step up.
Although the women had only three wins at Kāpiti, there were some close losses, and Wheeler feels the team is not too far away from some good results.
“That’s what we’ve got to work on, just trying to close that gap and then getting across the finish line,” Wheeler said.
“There are some new combinations, but I’m quite confident, actually.
“I would be really happy with finishing about the middle, and anything over that is a bonus.”
The teams play two games today, three tomorrow and two on Sunday.
Wairarapa teams for Octagonal tournament:
Men: Singles – Peter Walker; Pairs – Mark O’Brien, Ian Monaghan [skip]; Triples – Roger Smeaton, Hayden Frew, Richard Anderson [skip]; Fours – Gavin Hamlyn, Ross Gillett, Clint Carroll, Garry Muriwai [skip]
Women: Singles – Tanya Wheeler; Pairs – Stacey Smyth, Mary-Ann Wilson [skip]; Triples – Dale Lloyd Stanton, Lil Renata, Rozanna Muriwai [skip]; Fours – Jill McLean, Helen Baker, Janalle Frew, Robyn Schischka [skip]