Andrew Kelly-Blackjack

Blackjacks, High Performance, News, Our People

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We were preparing to watch our athletes compete on the world stage around this time, however 2020 had other plans.
Instead, get to know them better with a series of profiles that we will be releasing over the coming days.

Date of birth: 8/3/88
Place of birth: Oamaru
Club: Canterbury 2017
What year did you start bowling: 2000
Cap number: 105
International debut: 2010
Caps: 90
National titles: 3 (singles 2020 and fours 2012 & 2014)
Nickname: Potter
Occupation: Structural engineering technologist
Interests outside bowls: Spending time with his young daughter Gemma, engineering, architecture, playing hockey, running, kickboxing and cycling

It's been more than a decade since Andrew Kelly first represented the Blackjacks, but it’s only in recent times that he’s started consistently delivering on his immense promise in the international arena.

Kelly has been winning ever since he started playing bowls as a 12-year-old at the Pukeuri Bowling Club in North Otago, where he was mentored by his father, Dave Rankin and Russell McDonald. In his first season he and his dad won the club pairs, the champion of champion pairs and the open centre triples. “You get that winning feeling and you just want to build on it.” He’d play rep rugby for North Otago but bowls took over at high school when he “got smaller relative to everyone else”.

He received his gold star for winning five centre titles at the age of 17 and before his 18th birthday skipped a four to the final of the 2006 nationals in Wellington. While Kelly’s young quartet ultimately had to settle for silver “that was where personally I knew certainly I could go all the way to the top. That was the defining moment for me.”

Kelly represented New Zealand at under-18 and under-25 level later in 2006, but had to wait a further three years before he got to play amongst the senior ranks internationally. It came at the Hong Kong International Classic and Kelly returned home with his first international gold in the pairs. He followed it up the following year by winning the singles at the Junior World Cup and made his capped debut for New Zealand at the eight nations tournament in New Delhi. The triple he played in made the final but he was overlooked for the 2010 Commonwealth Games and didn’t play for the Blackjacks again until 2012. In hindsight Kelly believes he wasn’t ready to play internationally. “Looking back it may have been more beneficial if I did have more time in the wilderness to sharpen the skills and become a bit more mature and ready for that exposure.”

Aged 23, Kelly won his maiden national title, skipping Ali Forsyth, Blake Signal and Greg Ruaporo to victory in the fours in Auckland. It helped him find his way back in the New Zealand team for the six nations tournament in Adelaide later that year in Adelaide, but he didn’t do enough to gain selection in the Blackjacks for the 2012 world championships that followed. However he was re-selected for the Trans Tasman series in Auckland in 2013 and then toured the UK in preparation for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games.

Despite believing he performed really well in the UK and following it up by winning his second national fours title at the start of 2014, Kelly missed out on selection for the Games, after a couple of indiscretions off the green. “I didn’t agree with the decision and I still don’t, but I can appreciate why it was made.”
The career low served as a major turning point in his bowls life. “That was a bit of a catalyst for me changing into the person I am now. Taking a lot more responsibility for the way I represent myself and put myself out in different situations and not giving other people the opportunity to take stuff away that I’ve worked so hard for.”

There was further disappointment for Kelly two years later when he missed out on selection for the 2016 world championships in Christchurch, after winning gold in both the triples and fours at the Asia Pacific Championships in 2015. He then spent more than three years in the international wilderness before being recalled to the Blackjacks for the multi nations tournament on the Gold Coast at the end of 2019.

He helped the triple win gold and then cemented himself in the selectors’ reckoning with a standout performance at the 2020 Summerset national singles and pairs. Kelly won his maiden national singles title at Papanui Club in Christchurch and finished runner-up in the pairs.
Andrew Kelly was rewarded with selection in the Blackjacks squad for the world championships on the Gold Coast, which have been postponed 12 months. He was named to be the lead in the triple and four.

~Brenton Vannisselroy