In celebrating 50 years of exceptional involvement with the sport, perhaps it was a fitting nod that the Bowls New Zealand young brigade were to the fore in taking out the Peter Belliss Tribute silverware, signalling the future is in steady hands, as Belliss himself, once in their position, looked on rinkside.
Hosted by Belliss’s beloved Aramoho Bowling Club in Wanganui, players from around the country travelled far and wide to honour and acknowledge the 50th anniversary of a man who has collected three world titles, two commonwealth titles and multiple national titles along the way, not to mention the cabinets of club and centre titles too.
Endorsed as an official Summer of Bowls event, Bowls NZ held the right to enter two sides, of which they chose to do, with one team Taylor Horn, Finbar McGuigan and Natasha Russell running out top of the field over the three-day showpiece – with the development trio not much older than when Belliss first began as an 18-year-old in 1969.
Other top profile players such as double world champion Gary Lawson teaming up with fellow Cantabrians, former All Black coach Alex Wyllie and Ricky Cook, rising stars Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Seamus Curtin and Bradley Down, among Taranaki’s Dean Elgar, former New Zealand representatives Sharon Sims and Philip Skoglund and Belliss’s long serving team mate Lance Tasker, all made an appearance, completing a fiercely talented line-up of youth and experience.
The first two days saw three sections of 14 teams battle it out over six rounds, with the top four from each section and the next two highest overall qualifiers from all sections rounding out the post-section field for the Main Event in Section A.
A further five rounds were completed on day three and four, with the finals, albeit delayed through heavy rain, culminating on the Monday afternoon in front of a bumper crowd of spectators.
The final saw Horn, who is the reigning National Men’s Singles champion and his side of Wellington stars McGuigan and Russell, take on the local Wanganui hopes in Ray Park, Ray Savage and Alan Dickson, with the youngsters proving too strong on the attack to take the match-up, 15-5 and pocketing the $3000 winners’ cheque for their efforts.
A tribute gala dinner was held on Sunday evening, with fellow club mates, former teammates and both Lawson and Wyllie sharing a few words and memories of both bowls and rugby, to pay homage to the New Zealand great – also a former No.8 for Wanganui in the 70s.
Belliss himself, along with brother John and team mate Norm Scott-Morrison were in fine form throughout the weekend too, narrowly missing out on a finals berth, finishing third overall.
In other results, Manawatu trio Doug Winter, Steve Toms and Sims took out Section B, while Taranaki triple Russell Hardy, John Roberts and Wally Hurley topped Section C.
Reflecting on the success of the event, organisers at the Aramoho Bowling Club are now considering whether to keep the event on the calendar as a premier annual Easter triples tournament, with a decision likely to be announced in the next few months, and if confirmed, will be added to next seasons Summer of Bowls programme.
Belliss is now the New Zealand national coach and one of three selectors, though with the natural talent he possesses and the desire to win still apparent, few would bet against him adding to his trophy cabinet in future seasons ahead as he looks to steer the next generation to greater things.
Results at a Glance
Winner: Taylor Horn, Natasha Russell, Finbar McGuigan (Bowls NZ Development)
Runner Up: Ray Park, Ray Savage, Alan Dickson (Wanganui)
Winner: Doug Winter, Steve Toms, Sharon Sims (Manawatu)
Winner: Russell Hardy, John Roberts, Wally Hurley (Taranaki)