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Wairarapa in a confident mood

Bill Brunenberg is likely to be in the four for Wairarapa. PHOTOS/FILE

BOWLS

CHRIS COGDALE
[email protected]

The Bowls Wairarapa men’s and women’s selectors are confident heading into this weekend’s national intercentre regional playoffs in Hastings.

The nationals were originally scheduled for March in North Harbour but were cancelled because of covid-19 and changed to six regional playoffs with the winners to contest the national titles in October.

The Wairarapa sides will come up against Manawatu, Hawke’s Bay, and Gisborne-East Coast, with the men playing today and the women tomorrow.

The men have big shoes to fill, having finished third at the last national championships in Wellington in March 2021.

Four players from that team – Bill Brunenberg, Garry Muriwai, Scott Mackenzie, and Gavin Hamlyn are in the squad. They are joined by Aaron Love, Clint Carroll, Mark O’Brien, and Hayden Frew. All but Hamlyn, who plays for Carrington, are from the Martinborough club.

The return of Scott Mackenzie adds depth to the Wairarapa side.

The inclusion of Scott Mackenzie is a big boost after he had previously been unavailable for the representative programme.

The singles specialist won five of his seven games in the 2021 bronze medal-winning team and although the team management won’t declare their team until 10 minutes before the start time of each fixture, it’s unlikely they will divert from Mackenzie in the singles role.

Selector Lester Dee said there has already been a ‘spy’ from Hawke’s Bay come down to try and find out what the Wairarapa starting line-up will be, but that won’t be divulged until the last minute.

Although Dee feels that Hawke’s Bay have a distinct advantage playing on their indoor home facility, he said the Martinborough connection has had experience at the venue, which has an even and consistent surface.

“The good thing is that Martinborough played in the club playoffs [in April] up there, and most of the team were in that Martinborough team,” said Dee, who added that some of the team travelled to Hastings on Thursday to get some more time on the greens before today’s matches.

Dee is confident that he has the team to win the round-robin competition and qualify for the finals.

“Last year it was third, this year it’s going to be better than third. These guys are a good team…. T-E-A-M… and there’s no ‘I’ in team.”

Women’s selector Tanya Wheeler is also confident the women are in the right sort of form to push hard for a place in the finals.

Wheeler, along with Makaia Campbell, Rozanna Muriwai, Janalle Frew, Mary-Ann Wilson, and Helen Baker were in the Martinborough side who qualified for the national interclub finals by winning the regional playoffs outdoors in Hastings last month.

The experienced Wendy Mitchell [Masterton], and talented youngster Stacey Smyth [Carrington] complete the squad for tomorrow.

As well as the interclub regionals, Wheeler said most of the players had a good diet of bowls over recent weeks.

“Six of the players played in an invitational pairs tournament in Palmerston North last weekend and played quite well, so we’ve been on the greens, we’ve had some bowls and played some tough competition,” Wheeler said.

“We’ve played a lot of high-end stuff the last couple of months, and we’ve had some good results, so if we can keep that up and keep on top of it and get through the three games we’ll go quite well.”

Unlike Dee, Wheeler has settled on her likely starting line-up.

Rozanna Muriwai will take the singles role after a strong showing at the interclub regionals, Campbell and Mitchell form a strong pairs combination, and Wheeler, Janalle Frew, Smyth, and Wilson make up the four.

Although confident, Wheeler is picking the home side as the team to beat.

“Because it’s indoors and you’ve got no elements, no wind or anything like that, I think the Hawke’s Bay teams have a big advantage, it’s their home green, and everything is different.”

Wairarapa teams

Men: Bill Brunenberg, Aaron Love, Clint Carroll, Garry Muriwai, Scott Mackenzie, Mark O’Brien, Gavin Hamlyn, and Hayden Frew. Manager: Warren Fisher.

Women: Wendy Mitchell, Rozanna Muriwai, Stacey Smyth, Tanya Wheeler, Makaia Campbell, Mary-Ann Wilson, Janalle Frew, and Helen Baker. Manager: Jacqui Oakly.

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