Alexandra ANZAC Fours 50th Jubilee

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Ken McConnell is a veteran of the Alexandra ANZAC Fours tournament, but never takes things too seriously.
He’s a former winner, but has a laidback approach, emphasising camaraderie as much as competitiveness.
That was epitomised in his approach to the 2021 event, which commemorated the 50th jubilee of the famed Otago tournament.
His team was assembled a few weeks before, but there was no thought of a practice together, or pre-tournament tactical discussions.
“It’s all about having fun, it’s not that serious,” says McConnell. “We didn’t even pick a playing order until 10:00pm [on Friday night], having a few beers. That way you can see what they think of you.”
McConnell lined up with Clyde clubmate Conor Muir, along with Warren Tisdall (Taieri) and Richie Muir (Wanaka). They are an experienced bunch, but didn’t have great expectations, especially given the strength and depth of the field.
“We just wanted to qualify – we didn’t think too far beyond that,” says McConnell. “There are a lot of teams and it’s always good competition.
It’s also cutthroat, with the 52 combinations pared down to a top sixteen for the final stages.
McConnell’s team won four out of five matches in qualifying, but still walked the tightrope to get into the top flight.
“I thought we were in the plate,” says McConnell. “It came down to ends won and I was convinced the other team had won more ends than us. But we squeezed through.”
From there McConnell’s men hit their straps, improving with every game. They finished top of their section after three round robin games, then faced some familiar faces in the semi-final, against the other Clyde bowlers in the tournament.
“There was a bit of banter,” laughs McConnell. “We gave each other a bit of stick. But we were happy to win.”
For only the second time in 10 attempts, McConnell found himself in the final of one of his favourite tournaments.
“We couldn’t believe it really,” says McConnell. “It was further than we expected. At that point we probably got a bit nervous.”
They dropped three shots on the first end but recovered their composure from there to win 8-6 over Donald Urquhart’s Hawea team.
“We played well overall,” reflects McConnell. “Conor led really well but it was a good team effort. Someone always turned up when we needed, we didn’t all go missing at the same time.”
Celebrations were in order for the southern lads, leading to what McConnell describes as their “third big night” of the tournament.
Tournament organiser Bruce Douglas was thrilled with the event, played in fantastic weather. The usual three or four teams from Australia were missed, but the size of the field was impressive in the circumstances.
The 76-year-old Douglas, who has been playing bowls for more than 50 years, is especially proud that the event has never been cancelled across a half century.
Douglas was grateful for the support of sponsors, including Asure Avenue Motel Alexandra, Fulton Hogan Central, Wesley Hodges, Pioneer Generation, and Bowls New Zealand, among many others.