By Michael Burgess
Birkenhead bowler Millie Nathan says team chemistry was the vital ingredient in their recent win in the Milford 5000 event.
Now in its 12th year, the North Shore triples tournament gets more popular with each iteration, as junior bowlers (year one to eight) enjoy the chance to take on players of comparable skills and experience.
Thirty two teams were attracted to the 2021 event held on Auckland Anniversary weekend and the Birkenhead combination of Gary Wallace (year six), Nathan and her brother Chad came out on top, though the margin was extremely close.
“I think we were a good mix,” says Millie. “Gary called the shots and organised things. Chad and I can be a little too aggressive on our shots sometimes, but I think the three of us found the right balance.”
While sibling combinations don’t always work out, the Nathan duo found it productive.
“We don’t get to play together that often but I always enjoy it,” says Millie. “It’s fun. We want to do well but we don’t take it that seriously.”
Millie (29) is a fourth year bowler, like her brother (32), and got into the sport for family reasons.
“My dad plays – he has been playing for a long time,” says Millie. “Chad and I just joined to spend more time with him.”
But they have progressed well and showed their prowess throughout the weekend at Milford. The round robin format encourages close competition and ahead of the final swing of matches to be played on the Sunday afternoon, Birkenhead were level on points with a Pt Chevalier combination skipped by Aaron White.
It made for a nerve-wracking final game, not knowing what would be needed to claim the $1500 first prize.
“I tried not to think about it, but my brother definitely was,” laughed Millie. “He looked over and went down a few times. I think they (Pt Chevalier) stopped displaying the score…they were just writing it on the card.”
The Birkenhead trio prevailed by one point, a fitting end to a memorable weekend.
“It was the first time we have played in it and a lot of fun,” said Millie of the tournament, which is open to one to eight year bowlers, with the proviso that at least one member of the team must have been playing for less than five years. “It was good competition and everyone was very friendly.”
A second Pt Chevalier combination skipped by Alex Reed were third, with Howick, Balmoral and St Heliers making up the top six.
Organiser Jan Hutton was thrilled with the weekend.
“The standard of bowls was outstanding,” says Hutton. “We had 32 teams and four on the waiting list.”
There was also some serendipitous entries, with one emanating from a chance conversation with a tradesman at her house.
“He told me he was busy, fitting his job as a plasterer around bowls, as a first-year player,” explained Hutton. “I asked him ‘why aren’t you coming to the Milford 5000?’ He said he would and ended up entering.”
By Michael Burgess