Image: Shannon McIlroy
Shannon McIlroy will make his long-awaited Bowls3Five debut at the New Lynn Bowling Club in Auckland tomorrow night (Tuesday, November 13).
The decorated Blackjack will turn out for the Stoke Thunder in its week four double-header, having returned from Sydney, where he won the men’s title at the World Singles Champion of Champions, before moving house in Nelson.
“It’s good to be a little bit less stressful now,” McIlroy said.
Stoke has won four of its first six round-robin matches without him to sit second equal, just one win behind the top of the table Point Chevalier Pirates.
“We’re in a pretty good spot at the moment. We just need to stay in the top three,” McIlroy said.
“We have to probably win three of the [last] four and we’ll be alright.”
Shannon McIlroy believes his return is “a bit of a double-edged sword” for the Thunder.
“It’s really good for our side because me playing boosts the confidence of our team, but also the other teams are probably going to pick their games up, knowing I’m playing,” he said.
McIlroy will skip Stoke on his return, with former Blackjack Kirsten Edwards also back for the Thunder, along with James Pugh, who will lead.
Peter Hodson, who has skipped Stoke for the first three weeks, has been given the night off.
The Thunder will open week four action against the Royal Oak Rockets, before squaring off against the Point Chevalier Pirates in the final match tomorrow evening.
McIlroy has watched some of the matches on SKY Sport and has identified the power play ends as being the keys.
“That’s the big end really. You want to be scoring a big number on the power play,” he said.
“If you win your power play and you win their power play, it goes a long way to winning.”
The other match on Tuesday pits the Stokes Valley Vipers against the Gore Rams, with the Vipers needing to win to remain in title contention.
Former New Zealand international Lisa White will skip Stokes Valley, with Blake Signal and Seamus Curtin both on international duty.
White is the first female skip in the inaugural televised league and will be joined by James-Cameron Powell and Alieta Vulu, making the Vipers the first team to field two women.
“I think it’s going to be a good look,” White said.
“The boys have gone overseas to play for New Zealand so I’ve got to step up.”
Vulu is making her Bowls3Five debut and is a new team-mate for White.
“I’ve played against her a few times. She goes pretty good,” she said.
Lisa White is well aware Stokes Valley has to win both of its matches this week, starting with the Gore Rams, and believes they might be meeting the southerners at the right time.
“After losing their last two games, they might be a little bit worried,” White said.
The winless Woodend Jets have another night off before they have their second and final double-header of the competition on Wednesday evening.
Day 7 matches (all broadcast LIVE on SKY Sport 2):
Stoke Thunder vs Royal Oak Rockets – 7:05pm
Stokes Valley Vipers vs Gore Rams – 8pm
Point Chevalier Pirates vs Stoke Thunder – 9pm
Standings after three weeks
Pt Chev Pirates 15
Stoke Thunder 12
Gore Rams 12
Royal Oak Rockets 9
Stokes Valley Vipers 6
Woodend Jets 0