Summerset Nationals attract New Zealand’s best


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Andrew Kelly in action at the 2020 Summerset Nationals in Christchurch

The draws are out for next month’s Summerset Nationals, which will see more than 650 bowlers vie for the men’s and women’s singles and pairs titles at 18 clubs across the Auckland and North Harbour centres.

The New Zealand-based members of the Blackjacks squad are amongst the entries, including Andrew Kelly, who won the men’s singles and finished runner-up in the pairs in Christchurch at the start of the year.

More than 300 men are in the running for the singles title, headlined by reigning world champion Shannon McIlroy.

McIlroy is in the same section as 2018 winner Dean Elgar, while Taylor Horn, who won the title when the nationals were last held in Auckland in 2019, is one of a handful of young contenders, including emerging players Seamus Curtin, Sheldon Bagrie-Howley and Ray Martin.

Martin and Robbie Bennett are back to defend their men’s pairs crown, with Kelly again looming as a major threat, especially as he has partnered with five-time national pairs champion Gary Lawson.

Kelly and Lawson are in the same section as Jordan King and Chris Lowe, who won the 2019 title at Carlton Cornwall.

Other fancied pairings include Mike Kernaghan and Finbar McGuigan and Seamus Curtin and Shannon McIlroy.

Selina Smith (nee Goddard) is back to defend her women’s pairs title, but this time with a new skip.

Smith has partnered with the experienced Dale Rayner, who won the pairs crown in 2017.

2019 champions Val Smith and Lisa Prideaux also return, as do two-time winners Angela and Mandy Boyd.

Blackjacks squad members Tayla Bruce and Clare Hendra are another pairing to watch, along with Debbie White and Ashleigh Jeffcoat.

In the absence of defending champion Katelyn Inch and runner-up Jo Edwards, White is also one of the leading contenders in the women’s singles.

She won the 2019 title in Auckland, coming from behind to beat Selina Smith in a dramatic final.

Fellow Blackjacks squad members Val Smith, Clare Hendra and Tayla Bruce are amongst the other favourites, while emerging talent Leeane Poulson, Lisa Prideaux and Bronwyn Stevens will also be expected to progress deep into post-section play.

The Summerset Nationals start on January 2, with qualifying in the women’s singles and men’s pairs.

The first national title will be handed out two days later when the women’s singles final is played at Carlton Cornwall Bowling Club in Epsom.

The men’s pairs final will follow on January 5, when qualifying will then start in the women’s pairs and men’s singles before the title matches on January 8.

The disabled and blind nationals will also take place in North Harbour from January 5-7, with the draw to be released soon.