Winning a title of any status can be a special moment, but winning the same title on the same weekend between two sets of siblings, that’s simply unforgettable.
That’s exactly what played out in Wellington last week, when Victoria pairing Bradley Down and Tim Toomey won through to the Champion of Champion Men’s Pairs, taking out the final opposite a strong Eastbourne duo of Jimmy Madden and Scott Roddick and rounding out an impressive season on the greens.
Across rinks, Bradley and Tim’s sisters Nicole Toomey and Amber Down, were also creating their own bragging rights, winning through their field to claim the same honour in the Champion of Champion Women’s Pairs, defeating the experienced Johnsonville pairing of Dale Rayner and Kaaren Guilford, 20-13.
A memorable occasion for everyone involved, but a moment that probably came as no surprise to those at the helm of the sport, helping to nurture a wave of Wellington talent rising through the ranks from centre selector to club support to family influence and guidance.
Players like Seamus Curtin, Raymond Martin, James Cameron Powell, Finbar McGuigan, amongst former players Euan Wong, Kirsten Edwards (nee Griffin) and the Victoria stars in the Downs and Toomeys, are all names that come to mind when thinking of top youthful talent hailing from the capital - with many other established performers also adding to the pile.
Heading into their championship showdown, both Bradley and Tim were riding a high after joining club stalwart Richard Corry to take out the National Club Championship Triples at Browns Bay earlier in the month, and previously winning through to the final of the Champion of Champion Triples.
Ironically, Tim found himself a late replacement for club mate Raymond Martin, who was initially a part of the winning Wellington trio, though unable to escape work commitments to attend the further two stages in both the regional and national finals - opening the opportunity to Tim.
Reflecting on the opportunity, Tim was lost for words as he had overcome severe hand surgery earlier in the season and was genuinely unexpected to roll a bowl for weeks thereafter. However, such was the determination of the sparky, Toomey was up and rolling in no time and was perfectly placed to take Martin’s place and fly the Victoria flag with pride.
With notable achievements such as winning the National Intercentre and outstanding performances at the National Open Championships and other high profile events, Bradley is excited to be part of a talent tsunami sweeping through the country and expects big things in seasons to come.
“To be honest, there is so much potential, it’s hugely competitive and makes for an interesting set up. Providing we all stay with it, I’m sure over the next few seasons it will make for interesting viewing to see who rises and who falls behind, or potentially we will all develop together, which would be the best result,” he said.
“Winning the Ch of Ch pairs was a great moment for myself and Tim, especially after the week we had in making the final of Ch of Ch triples, and then winning the Pathways, this was a great way to top it off. (And) to do it with our sisters getting hold of the ladies title on the same day, it was just a moment that I won’t forget and will hang onto forever.”
Bradley’s thoughts are widely echoed by Nicole, who this year found herself in the wider Blackjacks training squad to take on Malaysia in a warm-up for the Commonwealth Games, citing the inclusion in the training camp as a key motivator moving forward.
“It's always such an honour putting on the New Zealand shirt and I am thankful for every opportunity I get to play for my country. Being part of the training camp was an awesome experience and it has definitely helped me to push myself and strive to meet my goals, helping me to reflect on where I am, where I want to be and what I need to get to that next level.
“(Looking back), it was great to be able to play the final next to our brothers, so we could encourage each other along. It also added pressure to the sibling rivalry, as both games started off fairly close, but when the guys started to pick a few numbers up, it pushed Amber and I to work harder as we didn’t want them to have the household bragging rights.
“It was definitely a very special moment that I think we will all remember,” she said.
It’s no secret these Wellington stars, among others, are aiming high, and with results chalking up as consistently as they have been across the board, few would bet against seeing any of them donning the silver fern come World Bowls 2020 and Birmingham 2022.
However, between the Victoria lads, there seems to be unfinished business as Bradley, Tim and Raymond all sit on four centre titles, with the race clearly on to see which player claims their Gold Star first.
“There is a potential wager on this . . . Tim seems to think that he’s already got it won with the Mixed Pairs with Nicole for the first centre event of the season, but Ray and I might be able to get it at the same time if we can win the triples again next season providing nobody else wins anything prior,” Bradley explained.
“It’s all a bit of friendly competition, but to be honest, one that I’m sure any of us would be happy to lose if it meant one of our mates was getting the successes.”
Good luck team, may the best man win.