Arguably one of the greatest bowlers to grace the greens has signalled his retirement from the sport, and is ready to put his bowls back in the locker for good.
Using a public post on his Facebook profile, double world champion Gary Lawson – a man typically not short of a word or two, kept things brief simply stating it was time to devote his life to his family and thanking “all the great men” he had played for.
Many will look at the decision as a knee-jerk reaction to being overlooked for the Commonwealth Games next month, but those who know Lawson best will understand the frustration and obstacles placed in his way from the powers that be have simply taken their toll.
Few top-level sportsmen regularly rejected from international opportunities will keep returning and performing at the elite level, though time and time again, Lawson has done exactly that, remained thoroughly dedicated and proved his worth to be back in black.
And while some have questioned his on-green antics and attitude at times, few can honestly question his ability and record in the game – walking away as the undisputed king of New Zealand titles, amassing an unprecedented 13 - with the last two recently snagged this season in the pairs and fours in Dunedin.
An illustrious and profiled career spanning more than three decades, Lawson has truly made a mark for himself.
Held in the highest regard by his international peers, Lawson wouldn’t be out of place in the same conversation as the likes of Scottish legends Willie Wood, Alex Marshall, Aussie greats Rob Parrella, Ian Schuback, England’s iconic David Bryant, Canada’s Ryan Bester and even closer to home, Peter Belliss, Rowan Brassey, Nick Unkovich and Phil Skoglund – all remembered for one standout reason . . . their fearsome ability on the green.
Following on from that magical day in 2008 when Lawson combined with long-time friend Russell Meyer to take out the gold medal in the pairs, and then a few hours later backed it up with Meyer, Richard Girvan and Andrew Todd to win the fours gold – New Zealand bowls was truly in a state of ecstasy.
Fast forward several months later and the positive publicity and profile of the sport came crashing down in an unwanted heap, with allegations of match-fixing from Lawson and his men at the Asia Pacific Championships in 2009 rocking the world’s bowling fraternity and making news headlines across the globe.
Such was the extent of the drama, then Gisborne youngster Shannon McIlroy almost had his career unforgivably crushed, and gifted bowlers like Jamie Hill and Shayne Sincock proved casualties from the fall-out – both having never played for New Zealand since.
Thankfully, McIlroy was spared and his performances for the country and his world winning credentials since have rightfully seen him gain legendary status in his own right.
However, the public spat with former Bowls New Zealand boss Kerry Clark and national team coach Dave Edwards that ensued for many years to follow, perhaps restricted the true potential of Lawson, with Clark and Edwards seemingly slamming the door on his international career and leaving plenty wondering what might have been.
Though while kept out of New Zealand colours, Lawson typically made every statement possible outside of the international scene doing what he does best – winning and then winning some more.
A three-peat in the National Interclub 7s with the Eastbourne Eagles, an additional five national titles added to his resume, among a Taranaki Open Fours title in 2011 and a National Intercentre crown with Canterbury last year, had the bowling fraternity demanding answers for his absence from the squad – answers that have yet to be forthcoming.
For a man of many words, Lawson is being uncharacteristically quiet in his reaction to the announcement, other than to post the following message to his screeds of followers worldwide;
“I want to say that's it's been a dream but I've woken up and it's time to say goodbye - after I play for Canterbury in a couple of weeks the Gazman is retired - Gems Donna I'm all yours ♥️ To the great men I've played for, god thank you so much ... To the people I despise thank you for making me a hard bastard ... To my family and best friends, god I've been a tough trip ah ..sorry ♥️.”
His announcement prompted hundreds of well-wishes and comments from fellow bowlers, commentators and former international opponents, while many were left questioning the validity of the statement – instead believing he had fell victim of a twisted hacker.
But alas, the news is genuine and Lawson himself plans to bow out after the National Intercentre in Christchurch later this month – where his bright pink bowls will roll again one final time.
Love him or hate him, the Gazman has delivered and for that you can only tip your hat to him and wish him well for his future endeavours.
Cheers Gazza, it’s been one heck of a journey champ.
Gary Lawson CV (at a glance)
X2 Gold World Championship Medals (2008 Pairs, 2008 Fours) x1 Silver World Championship Medal (2004 Triples) x2 Bronze World Championship Medals (2004 Fours, 1996 Fours)
X4 Gold Asia Pacific Championships x3 Silver Asia Pacific Championships
X13 New Zealand National Titles x3 National Interclub Sevens (2009, 2016, 2018; Eastbourne Eagles) x1 National Intercentre Championship (2017: Canterbury)
1992 Superbowls Singles 2008 Australian Open Pairs (w/Ryan Bester)