Long-awaited Blackjacks call-up for Wellington bowler

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Ray Martin (right) lifting the men’s pairs title with Robbie Bennett at the Summerset Nationals

Ray Martin is poised to finally make his debut for the Blackjacks over a decade after first getting a national call-up.

Martin, 29, has been selected to represent New Zealand at the revamped World Bowls Indoor Championships in Bristol in April, after breaking through for his maiden title in the men’s pairs at the recent Summerset Nationals in Christchurch.

It has been his goal to play for the Blackjacks since he first started playing bowls competitively as a 12-year-old.

“My first crack in the New Zealand development team came in 2007 I think,” Martin said.

“I haven’t always made the right life decisions and unfortunately that’s probably put me back a couple of steps.

“But over the last few years I’ve knuckled down, sorted stuff out and here we are giving it a crack to play for New Zealand again.”

Martin believes he has matured as a person and it has helped his bowls.

“Most of the bowlers out there might remember me as teenager causing a bit of mischief, but here I am as an adult and I’ve knuckled down and we’ve put that all behind us.

“I’m trying to achieve goals on and off the green now.”

He has had a false start with the Blackjacks.

Ray Martin was selected to represent New Zealand at the Hong Kong International Bowls Classic in November, but the political unrest in the region prevented the event from going ahead.

“When you miss out on a chance like that you do have some negative thoughts like ‘oh well that was my chance and I’ll never get another one’.

“[But] I’m still a pretty positive guy so I thought as long as a I could go to some big tournaments and roll some good woods down, with some good results then hopefully I’m still in the selector’s eyes.”

His big opportunity came at the Papanui Club in Christchurch, where Martin and Robbie Bennett beat Andrew Kelly and Richard Hocking in the final of the men’s singles, extending his club’s incredible run at the nationals.

It is Victoria Bowling Club’s seventh straight year with a national title which Martin believes “shows we’re pretty awesome”.

But he didn’t expect a Blackjacks call-up would follow.

“I knew they were selecting some teams. I didn’t have my hopes too high, but getting selected for the world indoor champs is a pretty big selection so I’m just looking forward to another new experience and playing for my country.”

And Martin hopes it’s just the start of a long international career.

“I know the current Blackjacks have a lot of experience and a lot of talent and they still have a lot of bowls in them.

“But my hope is 2020 can be a new decade and there might be a couple of new faces coming in this decade and hopefully I can be one of them.”

Ray Martin will get the opportunity to play with New Zealand’s most capped player in the mixed pairs in Bristol, with Jo Edwards an automatic entry, as the winner of the last World Cup in Warilla.

“The chance just to throw some woods down with her is going to be great.

“I will try and get a little bit of advice here and there and some good tips that hopefully I can put to use.”

The World Bowls Indoor Championships replace World Bowls’ previous World Cup and the International Indoor Bowls Council’s World Indoor Championships.

The tournament will be staged at the Bristol Indoor Bowling Club from April 20-24.