With less than five weeks left on the clock, bowling communities throughout the globe are gearing up for the return of the eagerly anticipated 2023 World Bowls Championships.
Returning to the calendar some three years apart, (due to COVID-19 disruption and travel restrictions), more than 400 competitors from 44 countries are set to descend on the Gold Coast from 29 August - 10 September.
The event will showcase a staggering 1244 matches, with disciplines to include singles, pairs, triples, fours and para bowls - hosted by five spectacular clubs and coordinated by an army of volunteers and officials.
As the countdown continues, the New Zealand Blackjacks are busy finalising their preparations, before flying out to Australia in the coming weeks to start their campaign.
With a relatively new-look side and a promising showing at the Multi-Nations earlier this year, expectations are high and there is a calm confidence running through the camp. In the women’s line-up, the star duo of Katelyn Inch and Selina Goddard will compete in the women’s pairs, hoping to capture the gold in an event they have both excelled at in their last two international campaigns. Inch will also skip the women’s fours, with experienced stalwart Val Smith, Goddard and Leeane Poulson, while Smith will take charge in the triples, joined by Tayla Bruce and Poulson.
Following on from her success in the World Champion of Champion Singles in November 2022, Bruce will contest the singles berth and has shown in previous seasons, her domestic dominance for the four-bowl discipline.
Meanwhile, the men’s side will see the in-form Sheldon Bagrie-Howley skip the men’s triples and fours, ably supported by Lance Pascoe, Chris Le Lievre and Tony Grantham (fours). Wellington intercentre representative Andrew Kelly has been given the nod in the men’s singles and will skip the ever-consistent Grantham in a strong pairing, with Grantham recently taking out the National Champion of Champions Singles and showing solid form throughout.
The Para bowls combinations will see Mark Noble and Darron Wolland contest the men’s title, while Teri Blackbourn and Julie O’Connell will once again join forces and hope to emulate their Multi-Nations form on the big stage. The Vision Impaired mixed pairs comprise Kerrin Wheeler (and his father Colin as Director) teaming up with Jayne Parsons (and her husband Brent) to form a formidable duo in this discipline.
The 12-day competition will commence with seven disciplines (women’s singles, men’s pairs, men’s triples, women’s fours, para women’s pairs, para men’s pairs and para mixed pairs) in the first week of play, before concluding in week two with the men’s singles, women’s pairs, women’s triples and men’s fours.
Commenting on the preparation and planning carried out in the lead-up to the team’s departure later this month, Bowls New Zealand Head Coach Mike Kernaghan said he has been delighted with the individual and collective efforts put in ahead of the campaign.
“The men and women have been putting in a lot of work over video calls, working as a team to understand tactics, preferences and just bringing everyone closer together,” he said.
“From a coaching perspective, it’s easy to see the players have been working very hard on what they have been tasked to do, and there is a really high spirit among the squad to get over there and get underway.”
During their final week of preparation, friendly fixtures have been organised against Canada, England and Wales, with all players getting a chance to acclimatise to the Gold Coast conditions, and secure playing time on the five greens.
Stay tuned to the Bowls New Zealand Facebook page and website for regular updates, and check out the World Bowls website for round-by-round action.
New Zealand Blackjacks squad
2023 World Bowls Championships - 29 August - 10 September
Singles - Andrew Kelly
Pairs - Andrew Kelly (s), Tony Grantham
Triples - Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (s), Lance Pascoe, Chris Le Lievre
Fours - Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (s), Lance Pascoe, Chris Le Lievre, Tony Grantham
Singles - Tayla Bruce
Pairs - Katelyn Inch (s), Selina Goddard
Triples - Val Smith (s), Tayla Bruce, Leeane Poulson
Fours - Katelyn Inch (s), Val Smith, Selina Goddard, Leeane Poulson
Mark Noble (s), Darron Wolland
Teri Blackbourn (s), Julie O’Connell
Vision Impaired Mixed Pairs
Kerrin Wheeler (s) and Colin Wheeler (Director)
Jayne Parsons and Brent Parsons (Director)
Mike Kernaghan, Kevin Smith, Mike Carroll, Gayle Melrose, Emily Belton, John Quinn & Julie Blake