Clare Hendra’s breakthrough year on the national scene has been rewarded in the best possible way, with the Wellingtonian named as the Summerset Bowls New Zealand 2020 Female Emerging player of the year.
It’s a significant honour for Hendra, who has come back to the sport she loves in recent years, after taking time out to start a family and focus on career commitments.
It’s been quite a return, and Hendra had some eye catching achievements in the 2019-2020 season.
She was part of the victorious quartet at the National Fours tournament in Tauranga, then went all the way to the final of the National Pairs, as skip alongside Tayla Bruce.
Hendra also scooped four regional titles, including the Wellington Open singles and Taranaki Octagonal singles and was honoured as the Wellington player of the year.
In Trans-Tasman competition she led the triples in the closely fought series (1-2) and ended the season as the third ranked female bowler in New Zealand.
Hendra also made a mark at club level, helping her Silverstream team reach the last four in the Wellington Interclub sevens for the first time.
“She was out of the game for a while, then came back into the sport,” says Bowls New Zealand high performance manager Kaushik Patel. “It’s a great success story because she is balancing work, life and family life and trying to be world class. She is making every post is a winner thus far.”
“She is a perfect example of what can be achieved and [last month] she got selected into the Blacks Jacks squad for the first time.”
Invercargill based coach Craig Merrilees linked up with Hendra at the start of last season and has been thrilled, but not surprised, by her progress.
“In all my years of bowls I have never come across anyone more dedicated in their quest to become the best than Clare,” says Merrilees.
He explains that Hendra has a demanding full time job as a manager of a group of business analysts at the Ministry of Education, as well as being a wife, and mother to her four year-old son but still maintains a “clear focus on her goal of becoming world champion”
Hendra trains three to four times a week, usually in two hour sessions. Merrilees says 90 per cent of their work is drills, rather than practice games, but Hendra is diligent and dedicated, particularly with her preparation before each session to maximise its value.
“She is never complacent, always striving to be better,” says Merrilees. “No doubt Clare can become a real force in the game she loves, and she is certainly a world class athlete in the making.”
Others in the sport have also been impressed.
“She is supportive of the game itself and has a love and enthusiasm which is infectious to her teammates,” says Nigel Dixon, the general manager of Bowls Wellington. “Her encouragement and support to new bowlers was evident this year when she won a centre title with a fours side, in which none of the other players had won a centre title before.
“That was an example of her selflessness and willingness to put herself in a position to assist those around her, despite there being easier options.”
Black Jack Selina Smith has a unique perspective, after facing off against Hendra in the National Pairs final, then teaming up with her to win the National Fours.
“She was a breath of fresh air to play against and I was inspired by her comradery and class,” said Smith. “She always put teammates first. She cares about teammates and opponents and is positive and supportive.”
Fellow Black Jack Tayla Bruce, who played alongside Hendra in the National Pairs final, took a similar view.
“Claire embodies the Black Jacks values of pride, honesty, respect, accountability and integrity.”
Leeane Poulson and Lisa Prideaux were the other finalists in the category.
Congratulations to all finalists in the Bowls New Zealand Summerset Annual awards.