Spearheaded by long serving Blackjacks Jo Edwards and Val Smith, and ably supported by former New Zealand representative Richard Collett, Nelson Bowling Club will rightly be starting the National Bowls3Five Playoffs as undoubted front runners.
A quick glance across the field will see Edwards and Smith, who between them have amassed more than 1000 games for their country, a haul of world and commonwealth medals and umpteen national titles between them, while Collett himself a former national singles champion, commonwealth games representative and established marquee player in his own right, prove a daunting task for any opposition.
Though such is the thrill of the Bowls3Five format, past credentials and powerhouse reputations will mean little when it comes to a quick-fire 10 ends, with nine other teams equally as hungry to secure themselves a place in next season’s televised Bowls3Five league.
Following their local win, Edwards, Smith and Collett travelled to Havelock to take on Marlborough qualifiers Riverside, dispatching their opposition comfortably in straight sets.
All eyes then turned to the regional playoff against Blaketown, with the Nelson trio showing their class early doors and posting a thumping 10-0 win in the first set. However, a spirited fightback saw the Blaketown side claim the second set, before succumbing to the Nelson line-up in a tie- breaker finish.
Since returning back to their Nelson roots earlier this year from across the ditch, both Jo and Val have already made a huge impact on the local and national scene, joining the very club where it all began and aiming high.
In fact, such is Jo and Val’s impact on the club, the Nelson Bowling Club picked up their maiden National Interclub Sevens title in Christchurch earlier this year, while Jo and Val were key members of the winning Nelson Intercentre side in Wellington.
“We were so lucky to get them both. Rewinding the clock a good number of years now, Jo and Val walked in to this club and started playing through the business house bowls,” team manager Kevin Wilkinson said.
“To think where they have gone in this game and where they continue to go, they’re incredible club members for us and we’re absolutely delighted to have them on board.”
Going forward, Kevin and the crew are expecting big things from the class of 2021, though understands the format itself often throws up surprise victories and considered upsets.
“We’ve got some great people playing for us at the moment, and although we have been fortunate enough to pick-up Jo and Val, our little club here is really performing and every player is playing for themselves, everyone around them and the club itself . . . it’s a very special culture.”
And with the possibility of playing their way on to TV, Kevin believes the victory would have major spin-off benefits when it comes to attracting new members to the club.
“It would be brilliant to have another Nelson side competing alongside Stoke, and we know there would be a high level of support and interest for that.
“We already have a good number of people that come down to the club, enjoy a beer and have a roll-up, so if they can see the club competing at the highest level on TV, that’s only going to be a good thing when it comes to welcoming new members through the door.”
But for now, all attention turns to the Grand Finals weekend next month as Smith and her former Kiwi internationals look to complete their qualifying campaign in the country’s top two.
“We’re so looking forward to it. There’s some incredibly good line-ups, it’s an amazing concept and we’ll just take each game as it approaches,” Kevin added.
“With the qualifiers from Wellington and Wairarapa out, we may even be considered the locals,” he laughed.