Young gun hoping to catch the national selectors’ eye

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Ashleigh Jeffcoat is looking to further push her case for Blackjacks selection at the Summerset National Singles and Pairs, starting in Auckland on Wednesday (January 2, 2019).

The 19-year-old was one of the stars of the recent Bowls3Five televised league, helping to lead the Gore Rams to the final, and is in one of the most fancied women’s pairs at the nationals.

Jeffcoat will again partner Dale Rayner, having won the national title together at their first attempt in 2017 before finishing runners-up at the start of this year.

“It’s always been said it’s one of the biggest tournaments to get your name out there and be in the eye of selectors so like always I’ll be out there trying to impress,” Jeffcoat said.

“It’s one of the biggest competitions so if I can try and repeat what I’ve done in previous years it will help my case a little bit.”

The draw seems to have played into their hands, with a number of this year’s leading combinations, including the defending champions Bev Morel and Sherrie Cottle, not together for the 2019 tournament.

But Jeffcoat isn’t getting carried away.

“We’ve got a difficult section. We’ve got a lot of good, strong pairs combinations, especially Jenny Stockford and Jo McKenna.’”

The Summerset National Singles and Pairs are being staged at 16 clubs throughout Auckland and North Harbour (with six other clubs wet weather alternatives), with the finals at Carlton Cornwall Bowls, where Ashleigh Jeffcoat is a member.

“Knowing how a lot of the different greens run will be really helpful.”

Jeffcoat is already through to the final of the Auckland Bowls Open Pairs “so having that up my sleeve should come in handy one way or another”.

The mother-daughter combination of Leigh Griffin and former Blackjack Kirsten Edwards is amongst the other leading contenders for the women’s pairs title, having made the quarter-finals last year before losing to the eventual champions.

“I’ve been to the nationals every year for I think 15 years. I just see it as a good opportunity to play with my mum, because obviously we live in different cities, and sort of holiday with her at the same time,” Edwards said.

Griffin won the singles title in 2015 and with Edwards they won the fours the following year, but they have yet to have success in the pairs.

“Mum and I have done really well in the pairs over a few years, but we’ve sort of never got across the line.”

Edwards is coming into the nationals fresh, having taken some time away from bowls after a busy three months, including playing for the Stoke Thunder in the Bowls3Five televised league.

“It might mean I’m a bit rusty come competition time, but I’m really enjoying a break.”

“I’ve probably over played so having a break and not getting the bowls out of the car has been quite nice.”

Qualifying for the women’s pairs starts on January 2, with post-section play from January 5 before the final on January 8.