Dean Drummond and Richard Hocking: Giant-killing at Naenae

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Richard Hocking and Dean Drummond

When the Four of Dean Drummond, Richard Hocking, Dave Henderson and Lloyd Fitness reported for the first morning of Post Section play at the recent Summerset National Fours Tournament in Wellington, they must’ve thought they were a bit stiff with the draw … lying in wait for them on the Naenae green was none other than the Four of Gary Lawson, Shannon McIlroy, Jamie Hill and Tony Grantham.

But bowls is a funny game.

By early afternoon, Drummond and his team has beaten the hot favourites 21-15, and they faced Darren Goodin’s Paritutu team in the early afternoon round. With a 21-19 win, the Drummond team were in to the late afternoon quarter finals, and finished the day thrashing Stokes Valley 25-9. It had been a long, exhausting Sunday, but Drummond, Hocking, Henderson and Fitness were through to the semi-finals on Monday.

Drummond and Hocking had been here before. In 2017. When eventual winners Peter Bellis, Richard Girvan, Blake Signal and Lance Tasker knocked them out of the sudden death play-offs.

This time they were facing 2017 National Singles Champion Dean Elgar, and his composite team of Gavin Scrivener, Neil Candy and Bruce Hall. They quickly found themselves behind, eventually losing 6-21. They were out of the tournament.

Most bowlers would marvel that a team of four young guys could get to the semi-finals. Most would be comforted by the fact that they were put out by Elgar’s team – the eventual winners of the tournament. But whilst someone once observed that ‘failure is the mother of success’, when you have all the confidence of a twenty-something, failure isn’t in the script.

Hocking and Drummond have high expectations of themselves. And adding ‘Semi-finalist in the 2019 National Fours’ is not something they would add to their CVs. Even though there’s 400 other bowlers at the tournament who would happily dine out on the same achievement for years to come.

These youngsters are determined to do well in the bowling world.

“I started bowls when I was 10 or 11,” says Drummond, “my dad and granddad took me along to business house bowls at the Kia Toa Club. And it just went on from there.”

Even though he’s only 24, Drummond has already earned a life-time of titles : 10 club titles at his former Kia Toa Club; 2 club titles at his current club Bowls Hastings; 4 centre (Hawkes Bay) titles; and a raft of Professional Bowls Association accolades. He is ranked 4th in the PBA and has represented New Zealand in both Australia and England.

Hocking is equally entitled.

Originally playing out of the Bowls Taradale Club in the Hawkes Bay where he found himself often playing against Drummond, Hocking moved to Christchurch (and the Burnside Club) to complete a BCom at Canterbury University.

Along the way he collected 9 club titles (4 at Bowls Taradale and 5 at Burnside); 2 Hawkes Bay Centre titles; 3 Canterbury Centre titles; a national age group title; and a member of the Canterbury team that won the National Intercentre title in 2017. Not bad for a 23 year old!

But collecting so much bowling success doesn’t come cheap for Drummond and Hocking : Drummond has a full-time job with a very tolerant boss in the ‘Recipe Room’ at Wattie’s in Hastings and Hocking exercises his degree in accounting and tax at Land Information New Zealand in Christchurch.

Their full-time jobs fund their success in bowls. “There’s tournament fees, travel costs, accommodation and meal expenses,” says Drummond, “but we’re no different than any other athletes trying to break in to the big time.”

That may be true. But then the ‘big time’ isn’t so big as other sports like rugby, league, and cricket – which are all trying to attract Kiwi kids.

“It’s important for the game to been seen as both exciting and appealing especially to younger people,” says Hocking. “I really enjoyed competing at secondary schools tournaments and other age group events when I first started playing. Having opportunities to get to know other people and compete against other players of a similar age to myself is a big part of why I love playing.”

If Drummond, Hocking and their National Fours team are any indication of what youngsters could bring to the sport, then bring ‘em on!

-Rob Davis