By Michael Burgess
Auckland bowls stalwart Bryan Chapman achieved a 40-year ambition at the 2021 Mac Elliott Classic Fours last month.
The tournament at the Carlton Cornwall club is a favourite, with the dates usually circled in his calendar when the summer schedules are released.
“It’s a fabulous event,” says Chapman. “Back in the day it used to be one of the most prestigious tournaments on the Auckland circuit and I always made sure I played it.”
Chapman’s first bow was back in 1982, and he has entered the tournament as often as possible since then.
“It’s important that those events with a lot of history are supported, and it is always a pleasure and a privilege to play,” says Chapman.
So he didn’t hesitate when invited to join the Brown Bays’ trio of Neil Fisher, John Walker and Colin Rogan – “they are great guys…I was lucky to be playing with them” – and was delighted when they prevailed on points differential, to lift the cherished trophy.
“I’ve never won it before, so it was a huge thrill,” admits Chapman. “When you look at some of the famous names on it, it’s a real honour to be part of that list.”
Though there were no doubts about the outcome, Chapman admits the final result was a “bit controversial”, due to the scoring system employed at the tournament.
Organisers awarded four points for wins by four shots or more and three points for a close victory, with a point awarded to the team that had suffered the narrow loss.
Chapman’s team had seven wins and a draw but finished on equal points (30) with Gary Cotter’s Royal Oak team, who had eight wins. That was because the North Shore team enjoyed a greater number of emphatic victories and their vastly superior points differential then broke the deadlock to decide the title.
“I liked the bonus point idea,” said Chapman. “It was a brilliant concept, to encourage teams to keep fighting until the last bowl, but I’m not sure if they should have taken a point off the other team.”
“We were very happy to win it, though I did feel sorry for the runners-up as that would have been tough. But everybody knew the conditions of play before we started.”
It was difficult to argue with the eventual result, as the Browns Bay’ four ended up with a massive points differential, reflecting their superiority in many games.
Chapman first played with Fisher in the 1990s, and crossed paths with Walker and Rogan a decade later.
“They are great players,” says Chapman. “They have won numerous North Harbour titles and guys like them are the backbone of this sport.”
The experienced quartet had set their sights high, ahead of the event.
“Our expectations were the same as they always are,” laughs Chapman. “We wanted to do well. We knew it would be tough – it always is in bowls – but we don’t go in there to run second.”
They enjoyed a 100 per cent record on the first day, before a stumble on the second morning, as they drew their opening game.
“That was a close one,” says Chapman. “But we knew we still had a good chance. The result was still in our hands, if we kept winning.”
The Browns Bay team took out their final three rounds – all by handy margins – to end with seven ‘maximum point’ wins and a draw, while the Royal Oak combination had eight wins, but only collected maximum points six times.
“The experience of Neil, John and Colin showed through,” says Chapman. “When the pressure was on, they performed, as class players do.”
“We all get on well with each other; we are great mates on the green, we gel as a team and there are no regrets or recriminations afterwards.”
Carlton Cornwall bowls’ president James Williams labelled the tournament, which was played under blue skies, a great success. There was a stirring Anzac tribute on the Sunday morning, as the last post was played and the Anzac Ode was read, and great camaraderie among the 27 competing teams throughout. Williams was grateful for the work of club members and volunteers and especially the support of major sponsors Craigs Investment Partners.
By Michael Burgess