Looking back at the Royal Oak Easter Triples win.


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The night before the start of the 2021 Royal Oak Easter Triples tournament, club stalwart Joe Whitelaw had an uneasy feeling.
Whitelaw had played in almost every edition of the event, only missing one since its inception a decade ago.
But the third player on his team – a guest from the Waikato – hadn’t been contactable over the previous few days.
“I was a little bit stressed,” said Whitelaw. “The guy was supposing to be playing with us and I hadn’t heard from the bugger. I had a bad feeling.”

Whitelaw contacted teammate Danny Delany, who at Royal Oak, helping with preparations. They mulled over their options, before Whitelaw suggested inviting 13-year-old David Motu to join them for the three day event.
“I asked him if Davy was down at the club,” recalled Whitelaw. “I said get him in, he’ll be fine.”
It was a big call – given the quality of the field which featured current and former Black Jacks – but Whitelaw had no doubts about the maturity and ability of Motu.
He had competed alongside him two years earlier at the same event, qualifying for post section play and had noted his ongoing development.
This season Whitelaw and former Blackjack Delaney had taken on a mentor role with Motu and fellow club youngster Liam Hill (11).

“We are two of the senior bowlers in the club and we wanted to help them develop,” said Whitelaw. “We had to change our ways a bit – we play old school, play tough – but we wanted to be a role model for these boys.”
Where they could, they teamed up in various club events across the summer, helping the juniors improve their strategy and tactics.
“We weren’t so much worried about results,” said Whitelaw. “With these kids it is important that they are enjoying bowls, enjoying life. We grew up playing with some pretty hard taskmasters – when you didn’t play well you certainly got told – but it’s a different environment with this generation.”

The tournament was still a daunting prospect – “I looked at our first few opponents and there were centre and Auckland titles everywhere” – but the team, including Motu responded to the challenge.
“David played outstanding bowls that day,” said Whitelaw. “I told him don’t look at the player, just look at the bowls.”
They won their first three matches, before the “reality check” of a defeat to round off the opening day. The following day was even better – “we did exceptionally well” – allowing the team to qualify for post section, while others, including names like Taylor Horn and Jamie Hill – were relegated to the plate.

In the quarter finals Whitelaw’s team squeezed past a Takapuna combination skipped by Simon Poppleton (11-10), setting up a semi-final against Aiden Takarua’s defending champions.
It was another tight contest, with Delany, Whitelaw and Motu prevailing 17-15 to reach the afternoon final against David Clark, Shane Drabble and Logan Clark (Manurewa).
“At that stage we were pretty confident, from watching the bowls,” said Whitelaw. “We were facing a team we had beaten in qualifying, though it wasn’t going to be easy.”
The final was a beauty – befitting the occasion – and came down to the last end. Motu was prominent with some clever placement, helping his team seal an 11-9 win as they became the first Royal Oak combination to win their home tournament.
“David has a bright future,” said Whitelaw. “He has a great temperament and is very keen on the sport.”

Tournament organiser Les Wilson said the event had been a “huge success” with a high calibre of players. The composite Pacific Island teams, drawn from across Auckland, had been a popular initiative and the spectators enjoyed Kevin Hickland’s commentary on the final day.