The successful men’s and women’s quartets from last year’s Summerset National Fours in Mt Maunganui are back to defend their titles in Central Otago this week.
Reigning men’s champions Gary Lawson, Jamie Hill, Caleb Hope and Sheldon Bagrie-Howley are teaming up again, as are 2020 women’s winners Sandra Keith, Clare Hendra, Selina Smith and Tayla Bruce.
Lawson won his record-extending 14th national title last year and his four is one of more than 150 combinations that will start section play tomorrow (Thursday, February 25).
There will be six rounds of qualifying across 11 clubs in Central Otago, with teams requiring at least four wins to advance to post-section play at tournament headquarters, the Alexandra Bowling Club, on Saturday.
Lawson’s Blackjack team-mates Mike Kernaghan and Andrew Kelly are skipping other strong quartets in the men’s fours.
Kernaghan, who has been runner-up the past two years, is playing with newly crowned national pairs champion Lance Pascoe, reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy and the experienced Kelvin Scott, while Kelly is teaming up with Andy McLean, Keanu Darby and Roger Stevens.
Youngsters Seamus Curtin and Aiden Takarua and Taranaki Fours champion Dan Dickison are also skipping combinations that will be expecting to advance deep in post-section play.
The reigning women’s champions are in the same section as Mandy Boyd, who has won a remarkable five national fours titles in the past 10 years.
She will again play with older sister Angela Boyd and fellow former Blackjack Kirsten Edwards, who together were national champions in 2019.
Recently retired Blackjack Jo Edwards is skipping another of the fancied fours.
Edwards is teaming up with best-mate Val Smith, new Blackjack Debbie White and New Zealand support team member Rachel Davies.
They are in section one, while Sharon Sims and Dale Rayner are skipping the teams to beat in sections three and four respectively.
The first round of section play is scheduled to start at 8:30am, with a further
two rounds to follow at midday and 3:30pm.
The fours champions will be crowned on Sunday, but the majority of the bowlers are staying on in Central Otago for the national mixed pairs which follow from Monday to Wednesday.