New Zealand Blackjack and world number one Shannon McIlroy rounded out a stellar season on the greens, taking out the Men’s Player of the Year and later recognised as the Summerset Supreme Winner at the Bowls New Zealand annual awards dinner.
The function, held at Auckland’s Eden Park on Friday night, saw the presentation of national awards in several categories, with more than 100 attendees paying homage to those who have excelled in their respective areas of the sport over the 2018/19 season.
In a bumper season, McIlroy lengthened his resume by adding the World Champion of Champion Singles, two gold medals at the Asia Pacific championships in the singles and pairs and finished third in the 2019 Summerset National Singles – though with some major international events and the World Bowls 2020 looming large, you can be sure McIlroy is already pacing himself with an on more silverware and world prestige.
Alongside McIlroy, it was no surprise to see women’s world number one Jo Edwards wrap up the Female Bowler of the Year for the second consecutive year, reflecting her efforts in taking out the World Champion of Champion Singles, World Cup Indoor Singles, Asia Pacific women’s singles and bronze in the Asia Pacific women’s pairs – rounding out yet another highly successful season on the greens for the Brisbane-based Blackjack.
In what proved a busy night for the Stoke bowler, it wasn’t long before McIlroy was back on stage joining his fellow New Zealand representatives as the Asia Pacific Blackjacks team stood proud as the Team of the Year, following an impressive medal haul on the Gold Coast several months back.
Desperate to turn the tables on their lacklustre campaign at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the New Zealand contingent attended the AP games with the intention of securing five medals – two of them circled as gold. A stunning effort collectively saw the team smash the targets, with every representative coming away with a medal of some colour – four gold, two silver and one bronze – and ensuring New Zealand well and truly qualified for the World Bowls 2020.
With any top performing athlete or team, you don’t need to look too far to find a coach calling the shots and wanting more – improving with every session and result, no matter how big or small that improvement may be.
That’s certainly the case with Graeme Rees, named Coach of the Year, acknowledging his coaching efforts alongside the winning Canterbury Men’s Intercentre side, High Performance coach for McIlroy, Gary Lawson, Bruce Wakefield, Tayla Bruce and Caitlyn Bassett, and the rink coach that oversaw the gold medal victories at the Asia Pacific Championships in both the men’s singles and pairs.
Rees is also a lead coach trainer recognised by Sport NZ outside of the high performance environment, and regularly organises and facilitates coaching clinics throughout the country as the Bowls New Zealand National Coach developer.
Spearheaded by their scintillating solo efforts on the Carlton Cornwall greens last season in becoming National Singles Champions, both Debbie White and Taylor Horn were deserved recipients in taking out the Male and Female Development Player of the Year awards respectively.
Following their singles breakthrough, White and Horn both went on to back up their status in the game, with White winning her way through with the Hinuera Club to take out the National Bowls3Five silverware and claim a spot in the televised league in October.
White’s other notable achievements include winning 10 games in a row to take out the women’s Taranaki Fours, runner-up in the National Champion of Champion Singles and a memorable bronze medal in the Summerset National Fours, skipping a new crop of development bowlers along the way.
Horn, who has also impressed and is now a member of the national high performance squad, will also feature in the televised league, showcasing his talents for the Gore Rams as their marquee player for the 2019/20 season.
Horn, who will represent New Zealand at the upcoming World Champion of Champion Singles, was also ranked the country’s number one bowler on Bowls New Zealand’s pilot ranking system – clearly identifying Horn as one to watch going forward.
New Zealand para triples silver medallist Bruce Wakefield, of the Burnside BC, enjoyed a stack of accolades last season, showcasing collaboration and inclusivity among several able bodied events including the Burnside Triples, the coveted Burnside Pairs, last 16 in the Summerset National Fours and a bronze medallist in the Halberg Awards.
His enthusiasm and love for the game will be on show next month, as he is sure to be a starter for the Parajacks side to contest the televised Bowls3Five league.
Adding to the Gala function, Wakefield, along with his fellow para athletes (see below), were recognised for their efforts in representing New Zealand, with caps presented to the following players;
001: Marilyn Savage – 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester
002: Peter Horn – 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester
003: John Davies – 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester
004: Barry Wynks– 2002 Commonwealth Games, Manchester
005: David Stallard – 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow
006: Sue Curran– 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow
007: Mark Noble– 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow
008: Lynda Bennett– 2014 Commonwealth Games, Glasgow
009: Bruce Wakefield– 2018 Commonwealth Games, Gold Coast
Other notable mention goes the way of Papanui greenkeeper Ron Sabin for his achievement in taking out the Greenkeeper of the Year, Sue Way (Umpire of the Year), Maureen Parker (Club person of the year) and Bowls Orewa – deservedly named Club of the Year for their continuous focus on community inclusion, innovation and regular membership drives.
In a memorable addition to the evening, two former bowlers were celebrated for their multiple decades of commitment and dedication to the sport – much to the applause of the function attendees.
Accepted by family members and those with a special connection to the recipients, the late John Flett (OBE) and the late Marie Jean Cherry Hobbs (MBE) were both inducted in to the Hall of Fame – receiving special awards presented by Hall of Fame selection committee member Ann Muir.
John was President of the New Zealand Bowling Association from 1976 to 1977, remembered for his efforts in visiting the Australian Bowls Council and arranging a test series between the two countries. Of course, that series still exists to this day and is hotly contested on an annual basis – the Trans Tasman.
Presidential roles and international competition is not where it ends for John, sharing the sport of bowls to anyone who wanted to play and through his sister, initiated many standards so that the vision impaired could participate in the sport, much like anyone.
Cherry, a keen bowler in her own right, was elected president of her club after only four years in the game – no doubt paving the way for three decades of bowls administration. In 1957, Cherry was elected to the Auckland Women’s Bowling Centre and served as its President from 1959 to 1960.
Following her presidential years, Cherry stayed on as Centre Secretary for a further 16 years. She was a Life Member of the Auckland Women’s Bowling Centre, becoming only the second person to have received that recognition, and also being a Life Member of Nicholson Park Bowling Club until its closure.
At the conclusion of the presentations, New Zealand comedian Simon McKinney was on hand to offer after-dinner entertainment, with attendees enjoying his eerily accurate and humorous impersonations ranging from Winston Churchill, a catalogue of international personas, through to Santa Claus and others.
Congratulations to all of this year’s Summerset Award winners and category finalists and good bowling to you all for the season ahead.
*Be sure to check back to the Bowls New Zealand website and Facebook page in the coming weeks and through the season, as each award winner will be profiled in more detail, sharing with you their reaction and digging a little deeper in to last season’s efforts.
Results at a Glance
Bowls New Zealand Summerset Awards Dinner, Auckland
Summerset Supreme Award
Shannon McIlroy (Stoke, Nelson)
Club of the Year,
Coach of the Year
Club Person of the Year
Greenkeeper of the Year
Umpire of the Year
Development Player of the Year – Female
Development player of the Year – Male
Player of the year – Female
Player of the year – Male
Para Sport Award
Team of the Year
Blackjacks Asia Pacific Squad