Spearheaded by seven of the 10 Blackjacks set to contest World Bowls later this year, the North vs South rivalry will be reignited next week as the teams vye for Island’ supremacy.
In a mouthwatering curtain raiser to the National Intercentre tournament in Wellington, New Zealand selectors have named eighteen players to represent their Island’s respectively in the annual challenge, with disciplines including singles, pairs, fours and mixed pairs.
A dominant display in the inaugural fixture last year saw the North take the spoils, though a powerhouse and in-form South side will certainly have plenty to say on this occasion.
Despite narrowly missing the cut for the Blackjack’s World Championships side, North Harbour representative Selina Smith will be looking to stamp her mark for the North Island, taking the blue-ribbon singles berth opposite Nelson’s Kirsten Edwards.
Smith, who earlier this year won the national pairs with Katelyn Inch, was in Sandra Keith’s winning national fours side earlier this month in Tauranga, teaming up with fellow high performance squad members Tayla Bruce and Clare Hendra.
The women’s pairs will see Ashleigh Jeffcoat and Lisa Prideaux, both former winners of the national pairs in recent years, go head to head with Canterbury pairing Bruce and Cait Bassett, in a contest that promises a feast of top level bowls.
The women’s fours will see the return of former international skip Mandy Boyd, charged with directing Val Smith, Tessa Lee and Sarah Scott in a star-studded South Island quartet -Boyd’s side going up against Wellington locals Lisa White and Hendra, World Bowls representative Debbie White and Counties star Leeane Poulson.
Rounding out the North Island contingent, Dean Drummond and Linda Ralph will combine in the mixed pairs to take on a strong Nelson pairing of Peter Hodson and Katie Scott.
Meanwhile, the men’s clashes will be sure to provide plenty of blockbuster action for rinkside spectators.
Controlling the singles spot for the South Island will be reigning national men’s singles champion Andrew Kelly, Kelly charged with tempering the sizzling hot form of Stokes Valley youngster Finbar McGuigan – McGuigan selected to play singles for Wellington following some high profile results this season.
In what will shape up as the highlight fixture of the event, World Bowls’ pairing Gary Lawson and Shannon McIlroy will team up in the men’s pairs to take on reigning national pairs champion Ray Martin and the vastly impressive Euan Wong – both Martin and Wong featuring as a pivotal part of the Wellington representative squad and providing a stern challenge for the reigning Asia Pacific champions.
The men’s fours will once again see the on-green rivalry of Dean Elgar and Mike Kernaghan come to life – both players charged with skipping their sides to victory on the Silverstream green.
Joining Elgar will be former national singles champion Taylor Horn, promising North Harbour talent Daryl Read and Bay of Plenty representative Nick Tomsett. Elgar’s four will go up against Kernaghan, Lance Pascoe and in-form southerners Keanu Darby (of Dunedin) and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (Southland) – Bagrie-Howley recently winning his first national title alongside Lawson, Jamie Hill and fellow Gore clubmate Caleb Hope.
The importance of the event is also highlighted by the appointment of High Performance Coaches to lead the teams, the North with Gayle Melrose and Philip Skoglund and the South overlooked by Sharon Sims and Graeme Rees.
The North vs South Challenge will take place at the Silverstream Bowling Club in Upper Hutt on Thursday, March 19 from 4pm.
May the best Island win.
Teams at a Glance
2020 North vs South Challenge, Silverstream B.C
Singles: Finbar McGuigan
Pairs: Ray Martin (s), Euan Wong
Fours: Dean Elgar (s), Taylor Horn, Daryl Read, Nick Tomsett
Singles: Selina Smith
Pairs: Ashleigh Jeffcoat (s), Lisa Prideaux
Fours: Lisa White (s), Clare Hendra, Debbie White, Leeane Poulson
Mixed pairs: Dean Drummond, Linda Ralph
Coaches: Gayle Melrose, Philip Skoglund
Singles: Andrew Kelly
Pairs: Gary Lawson (s), Shannon McIlroy
Fours: Mike Kernaghan (s), Lance Pascoe, Keanu Darby, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley
Singles: Kirsten Edwards
Pairs: Tayla Bruce (s), Cait Bassett
Fours: Mandy Boyd (s), Val Smith, Tessa Lee, Sarah Scott
Mixed pairs: Peter Hodson, Katie Scott
Coaches: Sharon Sims, Graeme Rees
by Sam Morton