Janet Swallow knows she’ll have a target on her back at North East Valley Women’s Pairs tournament this weekend.
The Dunedin veteran has emerged top of the pack over the last two years at the popular event, despite being part of a new pairing on each occasion.
Last year’s win alongside Cathy King (Anderson’s Bay) was particularly meritorious, as the two had never shared a green before.
“I had never played with her before,” says Swallow. “But we had a chat, worked out how we were going to do things and went from there.”
“On the first day things went quite well for me, but I told her that things could change the next day. She had a good day on the Sunday, came on really well, and we worked in well together.”
The year before Swallow, who is based at the Taieri club, was also skip of the winning combination, as she teamed up with Southland bowler Angie Francis, who like King was another development player.
“I didn’t even know her name,” says Swallow. “But we ended up going well.”
The random pairing came about as duos were decided the night before the event, with names drawn out of a hat.
“It was quite exciting – you got who you got,” says Swallow. “You couldn’t choose your partner. I thought it was great for the development of bowls as players got to play with different people, outside their own club.”
“In a way, I’m a wee bit disappointed it has changed from a draw as it was a challenge, especially if it was someone you had never played before and it was quite exciting. But it will still be a great tournament.”
This year’s format is more typical, with entrants nominating their partner ahead of the event.
“I got in touch with Cathy and said ‘Let’s go again,” said Swallow. “We did well last year.”
Swallow is a significant figure in bowls around the region.
She has won countless centre titles, as well as a National fours trophy in 1998 in Palmerston North. Swallow also finished runner-up in 2002, to a fours combination featuring the legendary Millie Khan, and was good enough to be selected for New Zealand development squads, as well as an New Zealand Invitational team that played Ireland and Scotland around the turn of the century.
A few years ago Swallow was asked to be a Dunedin selector, with the caveat that she could still be part of the team.
“They struggled in getting nominations for selecting,” explains Swallow. “They said I would automatically be in the team and could still select. I did that for the first year, but I found it a bit awkward, so I opted out.”
“But I still wanted to put something back into Bowls so I just continued as a selector in both senior and development.”
Development is her passion, and last year she put suggested a new representative fixture between Dunedin and Southland, playing for a trophy.
The initial idea has gained momentum, and last weekend she took thirteen female players to Invercargill for the now annual event.
“We have lots of keen bowlers down here, but we don’t have enough play,” says Swallow. “My main objective is trying to get the girls going and get more players into the sport, especially the younger ones.”
However her sole focus this weekend will be on a possible threepeat at the North East Valley tournament, which comes with a significant bonus.
“I loved the prizemoney at the end,” laughs Swallow. “It’s a nice lot of prizemoney and it’s a really well organised tournament.”
The 24 pairs will be competing for a total prize pool of $6000 in the Dunedin casino sponsored event, with $2200 going to the winning pair.
Aside from Swallow, prominent names include Gaynor Reid, Caroline Crawford, Bronwyn Stevens and Christine Buchanan.
The action starts on Saturday from 9am with round robin play, with post-section play and finals on Sunday.
1st: Sarah Scott and Bronwyn Stevens
2nd: Shona Elder from Te Anau and Helen Carman of Taieri