By Michael Burgess
When Allan Brider turned up on the first morning of the Wilton Invitational Classic Fours, some of his fellow bowlers couldn’t believe their eyes.
Brider had been a regular participant at the popular Wellington tournament over the last decade, but not many expected to see him at the 2021 edition, just weeks after he had faced major heart surgery.
“I was surprised myself,” admits Brider. “I probably shouldn’t have played. But if you really want to do something, sometimes you can.”
He had surgery on the 20th of January and was confined to a hospital bed for the next week as he recovered.
“It was a major operation,” said Brider. “It took eight hours, with two surgeons. I had the heart bypass done, two valves and the aorta.”
Brider, who had been on the waiting list for some time, was unable to play at all last season.
“I couldn’t walk up the green,” says Brider. “I would have to stop halfway for a break. But I still went and watched. I’m a selector at Johnsonville so I like to stay involved.”
His recovery from the operation went well, but his wife was still surprised – to say the least – when he floated the idea of playing in the Wilton tournament.
“I don’t think she was that happy,” laughs Brider. “She told me I was bloody mad.
But after getting permission from his doctors, Brider went ahead with his plan, assembling his usual foursome of Brent Stubbins, Logan Amer and Bradley Amer for the 21st edition of the Wilton Classic.
“Some people were surprised to see me,” says Brider. “They said ‘What are you doing here?’.”
He admitted the first day was a bit of a struggle.
“I had a good team around me,” says Brider. “They carried me – I didn’t do a hell of a lot. I went home on Saturday and went straight to bed…I was pretty tired.”
Brider felt rejuvenated on Sunday and was much happier with his contribution. After what he describes as a relatively easy draw on the first day, things got more challenging.
“We all played well, all did our bit,” says Brider. “You always lift when you are playing better players.”
Not much separated the top three teams going into the final fours game and Brider thought they had missed their chance when they drew a tense encounter 11-11.
“We thought we would have to win,” said Brider. “But Ray Martin’s team also drew, with another Johnsonville team.”
That left both teams tied on match points (44.5), after eight games, with Brider’s combination winning the tournament on account of a superior points differential. Mike Carroll’s team placed third with 44 points.
It was a fitting finale for Brider, who has previously recorded two third place finishes at the tournament, as well as a being runner up by a single shot another year.
“It was a great weekend,” says Brider. “I enjoyed the company – always do. And I gave my wife half the prizemoney.”
Wilton chairman John Earles was thrilled for Brider.
“He has been a loyal supporter of the event, so it was great for him,” says Earles. “He only got clearance from his doctors to play a few days before, so we were a bit surprised to see him.”
Earles said the tournament was a resounding success, with teams from Auckland, Whangarei, Marlborough and Nelson among the full field of 32 teams.
Renowned sports commentators John McBeth and Grant Nisbett enlivened proceedings with a question and answer session on the Saturday night, which was well received.
The tournament was also blessed with fine, sunny weather and Earles also paid tribute to long term major sponsors Lion Breweries.