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Wairarapa bowlers aiming high

The Wairarapa men’s and women’s bowls teams will need to turn around their recent form to qualify for the quarterfinals at the National Intercentre Championships starting tomorrow in Wellington.

The men, who were seventh at last month’s Lower North Island Octagonal tournament, have drawn a tough pool in Waikato, Nelson, North Harbour, Southland and Gisborne East Coast. The women, who finished eighth and last at the Octagonal, will take on West Coast, Waikato, Counties-Manukau, Central Otago, and North Harbour.

Men’s selector Lester Dee has selected “basically the same squad” from the Octagonal, with the main change being the naming of in-form Ian Monaghan, who will skip the four.

Monaghan has won the Wairarapa Open Pairs and Champion of Champion Singles over the past fortnight, and Dee hopes the experienced bowler can bring that form to the four, which also includes Garry Muriwai, Ross Gillett, and Clint Carroll.

“The four I have good expectations on and hopefully, the changes I have made are going to put them in a place that turns close losses into winning games,” Dee said.

Mathew Day has retained his place in the singles, and Gavin Hamlyn and Mark O’Brien [skip] are a proven combination in the pairs and boasted wins over Wellington, Hawke’s Bay, and Gisborne-East Coast at the Octagonal.

“Matt Day got down to the last 16 in the national singles a couple of years ago, so there’s no reason why he can’t win a couple.

“The pair I changed that in the Octagonal, and they actually beat Wellington, which was quite good, and they seem to go well together, but across the board, I would like to see all three sections go well.”

Martinborough’s Hayden Frew, the winner of last month’s Wairarapa Open Singles, has been named as the reserve/eighth man and could see some game time should Dee need to make changes over the tournament.

Wheeler, the 2022 Singles National Champion of Champions, will play the singles in Wellington, while Mary-Ann Wilson and Wendy Mackie [skip] is a new partnership in the pairs. Last weekend’s Wairarapa Champion of Champion Pairs winner, Robyn Schischka, will skip the four, which also includes Stacey Smyth, Helen Baker and Janalle Frew. Dale Lloyd-Stanton is the team’s eighth woman.

Wheeler’s expectation is to qualify for the top eight, and she said the conditions of play allow her to manipulate the team to suit.

“It’s been proven time and time again these teams aren’t invincible, and on the day, anyone can win a game,” she said.

“We’re playing the centres head to head, and the aim is to win two out of three, so it doesn’t matter which teams are winning.

“With the seven I’ve named, the strength is in all three disciplines, and we’ve just got to knuckle down, stay steady, and don’t drop numbers.”

Wairarapa are proof of how a small centre can upset the big guns, winning a bronze medal in the men’s championship in 2021, coming within one shot of beating Auckland for a place in the final.

Chris Cogdale
Chris Cogdale
Chris “Coggie” Cogdale has extensive knowledge of sport in Wairarapa having covered it for more than 30 years, including radio for 28 years. He has been the sports guru at the Wairarapa Times-Age since 2019.

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