For Tamati Sydney, winning the New Zealand Secondary School Triples title with his mates from Matamata College was the perfect gift, playing a memorable final bowl to lift the silverware.
Hosted by Auckland Bowls and played at the Carlton Cornwall Bowls Club, more than 150 school students from all pockets of the country descended on the City of Sails in a bid to claim national school supremacy and show their wares on a stage that has so often been the breeding ground for household stars such as Shannon McIlroy, Andrew Kelly, Mandy Boyd, among others.
Returning in its official form after half a decade, the New Zealand Secondary Schools proved a huge success this year, with 42 entrants in the boy’s singles, 26 in the girl’s singles and 35 triples teams across the greens.
The competition adopted the popular quick fire Bowls3Five format, with games lasting no more than one hour made up of two five-end sets. In the event the sets are tied, a one-end tie breaker will decide the fate, with a Power Play available in each game adding to the excitement of the action, automatically doubling the points scored for that nominated end.
The Boy’s Singles action saw two talented competitors in the form of Tauranga Boys’ College student Anthony Oullet and Rosehill College representative and Papakura protege Lee Warburton go toe to toe in an entertaining final match up.
Oullet, a well known indoor bowler and this year’s club singles champion at the strong Tauranga South Club, proved in consistent form throughout, defeating Warburton in straight sets, 5-1, 6-5.
Speaking after the final, Oullet was rapt to have taken the win in his final year at school, but was undecided on what the future might hold.
“Probably a gap year, then go to Uni, but undecided at the moment,” Ouellet said.
“I’ve got Champion of Champion Singles next back in Tauranga, so hopefully I can get that to end the season.”
In similar fashion, Waiheke College year 13 student Laura Tauniva was in commanding form opposite Lytton High School’s Paige Richter, defeating the Gisborne East Coast hopeful in straight sets 8-2, 6-2, reflecting her previous years experience playing for the North Harbour 1-5y representative side.
Tauniva, also in her final year at school, said she too was unsure about what was next for her, but signalled a return to competitive bowls at Glenfield Bowling Club was on the cards.
“It’s hard to believe right now, this is my fourth year. I took a break from the 1-5 reps this year, but I’m definitely going to come back to bowls more competitively again now,” she said.
Meanwhile, all eyes were on the triples final featuring Sydney, Shelley and Leaf up against the formidable St Peter’s trio of Auckland, Isaiah Franklin, Samuel Glover and Henry Hunt – with the first set concluding as a tie, 3-3.
The second set saw Sydney’s Matamata side run out to a healthy lead 4-1, with one end left to play, though a strategic power play nomination made anything possible for the St Peter’s trio, who were desperate to score two and force the win by virtue of double points.
And for several minutes it all seemed so possible.
Playing a brilliant cluster of bowls, the St Peter’s trio combined well to set up three shots and temporarily hold the title. However, Sydney, (who has played the sport for only two years learning his trade at the famed Hinuera club), clearly had other ideas, lining up the jack and driving it into the ditch to sit a matter of centimetres away and send the title back to the pride of Waikato.
With his heart still beating through his chest following the final bowl thriller, Sydney said he was “pretty speechless”.
“It feels pretty good to get that and I think it’s the school’s first bowls title . . . I’m pretty speechless right now,” he smiled.
Along with dozens of Auckland schools participating, students travelled from all corners of the country including Invercargill, Christchurch, Wellington, Gisborne and Napier, supported by school officials, parents and proud coach/managers.
The New Zealand Secondary School Championships will return in 2020.
2019 New Zealand Secondary School Championships, Auckland
Results at a Glance
Boy’s Singles Champion
Champion:Anthony Ouellet (Tauranga Boys’ College)
Runner-up: Lee Warburton (Rosehill College)
Third-equal: Adam Baillie (Ormiston Senior College), Cameron McLeod (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Girl’s Singles Champion
Champion: Laura Tauniva (Waiheke College)
Runner-up: Paige Richter (Lytton High School)
Third-equal: Hoki Tawhai-Cassidy (Opononi Area School), Angela Gibson-Sam (Campion School)
Triples Champion (optional mixed)
Champion: Tamati Sydney, Liam Shelley, Lyndon Leaf (Matamata College)
Runner-up: Isaiah Franklin, Samuel Glover, Henry Hunt (St Peter’s College, Auckland)
Third-equal: Cashmere High School, Reporoa College