Image: Alex Wyllie
Amongst all the personalities at the inaugural Bowls3Five event, one drew more attention than most. That’s because he was a person most New Zealand sports fans recognised.
Having been a prominent All Black and then successful Canterbury and All Black coach, Alex Wyllie was just the sort of personality Bowls CE Mark Cameron was seeking to help promote the concept. Wyllie certainly helped in that regard. Viewers wanted to watch Wyllie and his Woodend team. They were quick to comment about the fact he didn’t seem comfortable taking instructions from his regular skip Na Katae and that he quite enjoyed playing the run shot rather than the draw.
But what viewers appreciated was the Woodend Jets team was typical of bowls clubs throughout the country. The team described themselves as average players and, as Wyllie said, “we feel as though we’re representing the ordinary clubs. No star players, just bowlers doing their best and enjoying the game”.
Alex Wyllie has enjoyed the game for many years, but started playing regularly only six seasons ago. Like many sports people or personalities, his early foray into the sport was in invitation events or social games. Often these had been organised as charity events which Wyllie was always happy to support.
Having followed most sports during his active rugby playing and coaching career, Wyllie was comfortable with bowls when he eventually engaged in it on a more regular basis.
The Woodend club has benefitted from his enthusiasm and drive. His pride and joy is The Woodend Challenge which is played over the first weekend of April. The inaugural event was so popular it was quickly penned in as a permanent event and it’s one which is gaining in popularity every year.
People enjoying themselves in a social situation is something the amiable Wyllie loves to see, and this was the main reason he pushed for The Challenge.
Like lots of sportsmen and women, Wyllie regrets he didn’t get serious about bowls at a younger age. “I felt I was too young, but now see how good the young players are. It’s certainly not the sole domain of retired folk”.
He bumps into lots of ex sports stars on the bowls greens and loves visiting other clubs to play in tournaments. He hasn’t yet played in the national championships but says he’s considering it.
The Bowls3Five event brought Alex Wyllie back into the limelight. He and his partner, Jenny Anderson, Na and the others in the team, Daryl Neate, Neil Tiplady and Rae Miller, were constantly stopped at airports during their many “Jet” flights to Auckland, by viewers who had supported them throughout. “They just wanted us to win one game” said Wyllie.
Unfortunately they didn’t and won’t feature next year, but the team from Woodend, the Bowls Canterbury Club of the Year for 2018, definitely made an impact.
– John McBeth