Val Smith feels duty-bound to play in the Summerset National Singles and Pairs, starting in Auckland on Wednesday (January 2).
Several of her Australian-based Blackjack team-mates, including good friend Jo Edwards, aren’t making the trip across the Tasman for the upcoming event, but Smith never considered skipping the nationals.
“It’s always a good opportunity to play back home in New Zealand, plus the honour to play at the national tournament,” she said.
“I’m a New Zealand international player and it’s the biggest national event we have so it’s a sense of duty to my position in the New Zealand team.”
Smith also sees it as an opportunity to impress the new selectors and coaching team.
“I’ve been in the New Zealand team since the beginning of time, but you can’t rest on your laurels, you’ve always got to put your name out there.
“Even if you have a bad showing, I still think it’s important that you’re out there doing your thing.”
With Edwards, the reigning national and Commonwealth Games women’s singles champion, not in Auckland, the field appears wide open.
Val Smith made the singles semi-finals in Dunedin at the start of this year before losing to Edwards, but hasn’t played a lot of the individual discipline lately.
“I enjoy playing singles, but I don’t make it a major focus these days.
“I still enjoy it though. There’s something about being out there on your own doing your own thing.”
Smith has also had far from the ideal build-up.
“I haven’t had a fast green to train on at all because this time of year is when they renovate all of the greens in Sydney.
“Hopefully on the first of January I can get to a club and get some decent practice in.
“The greens will feel quick for me and it’s just about trusting them again.”
Ashleigh Jeffcoat, 19, also made the semi-finals of the singles at the start of this year and believes she has a point to prove in the event.
“I’m looking to do what I did last year and be an underdog in the singles,” Jeffcoat said.
“Looking to show everyone that I’m not just a pairs and fours player.”
With Edwards and 2018 beaten finalist Katelyn Inch not making the trip to Auckland, Jeffcoat believes the singles are going to be interesting.
“There will still be a lot of competition, but it definitely opens it up with them not being there to kill everyone off early.”
Qualifying in the women’s singles is on Friday (January 4), with post-section play starting on January 6 before the final on January 8.
The Summerset National Singles and Pairs are being played at 16 clubs across Auckland and North Harbour (with six other clubs wet weather alternatives), with the finals to be played at Carlton Cornwall Bowls.