Bowls New Zealand confirms new North v South Challenge

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Sharon Sims                                                                         Maurice Symes

A new initiative for bowls in New Zealand has been confirmed with the sport adding a fresh level of inter-island competition with the ‘first’ North (Te Ika-A-Maui) v South (Te Waipounamu) contest set for later this year.

The North v South Challenge will bring together the best bowlers from the North Island against those from the South Island at the Hopes Dunedin Indoor Stadium, 3-5 September in a Ryder Cup type format with 18 players each side to be announced.

Teams will be confirmed by the Bowls New Zealand National Selection panel including two para bowlers (male and female) for each team. There will be a mix of current high performance squad players featuring experience as well as unknown quality.

Day one of the event will feature two men’s and two women’s fours. Day two is nine mixed pairs (including mixed para pairs) and the final day is a huge 18 singles (including para bowlers v para bowlers).

South non-playing captain, Maurice Symes can’t wait for the North v South Challenger to get underway.

“It’s going to be a great event. I was quite excited when they asked me to be involved. The hard part as the non-playing captain will be getting the combinations right, particularly as the singles can turn the competition on its head,” said former Commonwealth Games medallist Symes who resides in Blenheim.

“Hopes Dunedin Stadium isn’t the easiest with judging distances, It can be quite demanding on the bowlers. I think the South Island can win and will win, but it’s going to be great competition.”

From the North Island, the non-playing captain, Sharon Sims is also looking forward to something a little different in the sport and creating a legacy as well as extra competition around the country between bowlers.

“It’s exciting to be involved in something that’s new like this. Anything that gets all of the best players together is great.”

“On paper the south may look stronger with the players they have at the moment, but you don’t play on paper, form doesn’t always mean a lot. It’s a new challenge for all of us.”

Bowls New Zealand High Performance Manager, Kaushik Patel is looking forward to the new concept and how it will put pressure on the competitors in a different environment as they look forward to further recognition and national selection, especially with Commonwealth Games 2022 selection only eight months away.

“The North v South Challenge will add a huge amount to everyone taking part. It will be interesting to see how the players respond to the pressure, plus seeing the inter-island rivalry come to the fore. There is already a bit of talk around the country about which island has the best bowlers currently, this event could settle things.”

In the past there have been North v South events but not in this new format and not always on a regular basis.