The stage is set, the stars are ready . . . strap yourself in for the seventh installment of the pulsating Bowls Premier League (BPL) set to unfold later next month at the Naenae Bowling Club in Wellington.
With some of the world’s greatest bowlers primed and ready to descend on the New Zealand capital, viewers and fans alike can expect a feast of bowls’ action later this month (Apr 23-26), with evening games broadcast live both on Sky Sport NZ and Fox Sports Australia , and day rounds streamed live on the Bowls New Zealand Facebook page.
With household names like multiple world champion Alex Marshall, Canadian master blaster Ryan Bester, world pairs champion Aaron Wilson, world singles champion Shannon McIlroy and a plethora of Commonwealth Games representatives such as Jo Edwards, Aron Sherriff, Barrie Lester and Karen Murphy to name only a few, going toe-to-toe in a format, it’s unlikely you’ll find time for work - instead opting to catch every bowl sent down by the greats.
While all talk will be intriguingly centred around the unprecedented four-peat by the Sydney Lions, entering the field as hot favourites, the Gold Coast Hawks will be hoping to prove a point - acquiring the services of three-peat Sydney Lions winner Aron Sherriff, who will be joined by Helensvale clubmate Nathan Rice and Lynsey Clarke, with Mark Casey going from rink skipper to taking the reigns as sideline coach.
Replacing Sherriff in the Lions’ set-up, former winner Ben Twist will return from international duties to team up with Australia’s most capped player Karen Murphy and back-to-back Hong Kong pairs gold medalist Corey Wedlock to form a dangerous trio, while equally dangerous will be the recently crowned sixth-time world indoor champion Jeremy Henry, leading the charge for the Illawara Gorillas’ franchise with U25 World Singles champ Aaron Teys and Scottish international Kay Moran posing a sizable threat to any opposition following their runner-up debut performance late last year.
The New Zealand Blackjacks will see reigning World Fours champion Mike Nagy make his BPL debut, as the experienced campaigners in McIlroy and Edwards will complete the trio, with the Kiwis former winners of the event in Brisbane, 2015 and looking to add to their international resume.
Dual Commonwealth Games gold medallist Marshall will once again form a looming cutout on the greens, returning to the Brisbane Pirates set-up, this time teaming with Jackaroo Kelsey Cottrell and former state lead Michael Breen, replacing Robbie Wild for Club Pine Rivers.
In other changes, the third and final debutante will see the Perth Suns give the nod to Helen Morss, with Kristina Krstic a notable omission alongside the effervescent John Slavich and former Suns’ star Clive Adams, who returns this year to replace the steady and reliable Pieter Harris.
The popular BPL format will see teams of three competing in a pairs format over two sets of five ends and a tie-break end if required. Adding to the spice, each team will get the opportunity to play their “Powerplay”, which results in any shots scored that end being doubled.
Tournament rules state the third team member must play a minimum of nine bowls across both sets, making for an interesting spectacle and astute coaching tactics throughout.
Action will get underway on April 23, with New Zealand-based viewers able to tune in to the evening TV rink from 6pm-11pm, while across the ditch, all TV games will be screened live from 4pm-9pm AEST.
May the best team win.
BPL07 Teams at a Glance
Naenae Bowling Club, Wellington - New Zealand. April 23-26, 2018
Kelsey Cottrell, Alex Marshall, Michael Breen, Dave Edwards (Coach)
Gold Coast Hawks:
Aron Sherriff, Nathan Rice, Lynsey Clarke, Mark Casey (Coach)
Jeremy Henry, Aaron Teys, Kay Moran, Wes Falconer (Coach)
Aaron Wilson, Barrie Lester, Carla Krizanic, Ian Ewing (Coach)
Michael Walker, Ryan Bester, Ellen Ryan, Barry Brennan (Coach)
New Zealand Blackjacks:
Shannon McIlroy, Jo Edwards, Mike Nagy, Sharon Sims (Coach)
John Slavich, Clive Adams, Helen Morss, Therese Hastings (Coach)
Ben Twist, Corey Wedlock, Karen Murphy, Steve Glasson (Coach)