The signature event on the bowls calendar – the Summerset Nationals – is underway.
The 2019 edition introduces two major changes. Firstly, the traditional tournament has been split into two – with the Singles and Pairs being played in Auckland and the Fours in Wellington. And secondly, the tournament timing has changed : the Singles and
Pairs kick off in the new year (instead of the previous post-Christmas start) and the Fours will be played in March 2019.
The new structure for the tournament is already looking like a winner.
“Last year in Dunedin, we had 540 people entered across all formats,” says Bowls New Zealand CEO, Mark Cameron. “This year there’s 500 entries in just the Singles and Pairs alone, with the Fours still to come.”
Cameron acknowledges that this year’s encouraging numbers will have a lot to do with the tournament being in the more populous Auckland rather than Dunedin. “Because of travel and accommodation costs, we obviously get far more local entries than out-of-towners. That’s why we move the Nationals around the country, so everyone gets a fair go.”
Cameron also believes that the 2nd January start date has positively influenced the numbers. “Bowlers had been telling us that the post Xmas (December 28) start of previous years made a traditional family Christmas difficult. So we’ve moved the tournament out a week, while still trying to keep it within the holiday period.”
Bowls New Zealand has committed to the new structure for two years, whereupon its success (or otherwise) will be reviewed after the 2020 tournaments. “Having said that, we’ll be announcing new host venues for 2020, rather than sticking to Auckland and Wellington,” adds Cameron.
The evergreen Helen Stallard returns as the Tournament Director for 2019. “Although the tournament has been split,” says Stallard, “The Conditions of Play still remain the same as they were in previous years.”
Stallard has the unenviable job of ensuring the 500 entrants play ball across the 17 Auckland bowling clubs in use for the Singles and Pairs. “At least the traffic at this time of year is not so bad,” observes Stallard, “so getting around the venues will be a little easier.”
Stallard will still have her work cut out. Whilst the Carlton Cornwall Club, beautifully set in Cornwall Park, is the tournament headquarters, participating clubs are spread as far as Milford in the north, Te Atatu Peninsula in the west, Papatoetoe Hunters Corner in the south and Howick in the east. “If the weather’s wet, there’s another 6 clubs on stand-by.”
Last year’s Men’s Singles champion Shannon McIlroy will be returning to defend his title in Auckland, and the 2018 Women’s Pairs champions Bev Morel and Sherrie Cottle will once again be waving the Elmwood Park flag. And there will be many other former champions vying for the 2019 titles.
“That’s the great thing about the Summerset Bowls Nationals,” says Cameron. “They provide the opportunity for even bowling beginners to find themselves playing against someone who has represented New Zealand at the Commonwealth Games or World Champs. Few other sports offer that.”
For more information about the tournament go to www.bowlsnewzealand.co.nz/summerset-national-singles-pairs-2/