If the results of the inaugural 2023 Digicel Oceania Challenge are any indication, the future of Pasifika bowls is brimming with talent, determination and plenty of flair.
Hosted by Blockhouse Bay Bowling Club in Auckland, 19 teams throughout the Oceania Region took to the greens for a taste of international play, concluding on Monday afternoon (17 April). Countries represented include NZ Under-26, Aotearoa Maori, Norfolk Island, Tonga, Fiji, Niue, Samoa, Tokelau and the Cook Islands.
The four day event saw nine teams battle it out in the men’s field and eight teams line-up in the women's. All four disciplines were played with teams split into two sections to contest a round-robin format, with gold, silver and bronze medals up for grabs in every discipline.
Following section play, the winners of each section secured a spot in the gold medal match-up, while third and fourth placings took to the rink to play for bronze.
The first medal of the event went the way of the Aotearoa Maori men’s triple, with Nathan Goodin, Kaylin Huwyler and Hamish Kape combining to defeat Taylor Horn, David Motu and Tom Taiaroa, while in the fours, Motu and Taiaroa joined with Wellington duo Seamus Curtin and Finbar McGuigan to take out the gold medal opposite a strong Cook Island’s side comprising Aiden Zittersteijn, Taiki Paniani, Teora Turua and Jason Lindsay.
Bronze medalists in both the triples and fours went the way of Tonga’s Steve Hoeft, Liam Hill and Ula Fusimalohi (triples) and Aotearoa Maori quartet Raika Gregory, Kape, Goodin and Michael Staite (fours).
In the men’s pairs, Curtin and McGuigan were too strong in their discipline, combining to defeat Staite and Gregory for gold - marking a perfect two from two for the lads from Stokes Valley. The singles saw another gold go the way of Huwyler, who was in excellent form throughout the event, comfortably defeating Tonga’s Chris Smith.
Bronze medalists in the singles and pairs were secured by New Zealand U26 representative Horn (singles), while the formidable Commonwealth Games bronze medalists duo of Zittersteijn and Paniani roped in another medal for the Cook Islands.
Meanwhile, the women’s action saw a dominant display from the Aotearoa Maori contingent with Karen Hema, Gaylene Kanawa, Mina Paul and Lisa White securing gold in the fours, and Kanawa, Paul and Natarsha Grimshaw collecting gold in the triples. The finals saw Hema and Co defeat Fiji’s Sheryl Edwards, Losaline Qaya, Adi Kalim and Radhika Prassad, while Kanawa’s trio got over the line opposite NZ Under-26 combination Ashleigh Jeffcoat, Henrietta Scott and Olivia Mancer.
Bronze medals were awarded to Cook Island four Tiare Jim, Rima Strickland, Philominna Akaruru and Emily Jim, while Teokotai Jim combined with Strickland and Akaruru to claim a second bronze in the triples.
In other results, Norfolk Island’s Carmen Anderson won a thriller against Tokelau’s Anne Samasoni Gately in the women’s singles final, while Aotearoa Maori representative Grimshaw clinched bronze. The NZ Under-26 pairing of Briar Atkinson and Caitlin Thomson won gold opposite White and Grimshaw, while Tonga’s Mailia Tavite and Millie Nathan rounded out proceedings with a bronze in the women’s pairs.
Reflecting on the event, tournament spokesperson Martin Mackenzie said the event was a fantastic success and hoped it could be established on the World Bowls’ calendar going forward.
“The bowls were of a high quality and there were some amazing match-ups. But more than that, there was lots of singing, laughter, dancing and chat among the participants . . . with the Pasifika vibes really coming to the fore,” Mackenzie said.
“We would like to see this event fill the gap in between the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games, and in many respects, have this as a stepping stone for Oceania countries to test themselves against each other and prepare themselves for bigger things.
“Looking around during the event, there was colour everywhere you turned . . you could see country flags flying, bright uniforms and people moving to the beat of the drums - it was a real celebration of our great bowling community and we want to support more of that.”
To conclude the event, the Aotearoa Maori team were awarded the overall winners - reflecting a hefty medal haul (four gold, two silver and two bronze) and team effort throughout the four-day showpiece.
RESULTS AT A GLANCE
2023 Oceania Challenge, Blockhouse Bay B.C
Singles: Kaylin Huwyler (Aotearoa Maori Team)
Pairs: Finbar McGuigan, Seamus Curtin (NZ Under-26)
Triples: Hamish Kape, Kaylin Huwyler, Nathan Goodin (Aotearoa Maori Team)
Fours: Finbar McGuigan, Seamus Curtin, David Motu, Tom Taiaroa (NZ Under-26)
Singles: Carmen Anderson (Norfolk Island)
Pairs: Briar Atkinson, Caitlin Thomson (NZ Under-26)
Triples: Gaylene Kanawa, Mina Paul, Natarsha Grimshaw (Aotearoa Maori Team)
Fours: Karen Hema, Gaylene Kanawa, Mina Paul, Lisa White (Aotearoa Maori Team)