We were preparing to watch our athletes compete on the world stage around this time, however 2020 had other plans.
Instead, get to know them better with a series of profiles that we will be releasing over the coming days.
Date of birth: 22/02/95
Place of birth: Christchurch, New Zealand
Club: Burnside Bowling Club
Year started bowling: 2008/09 season
Cap number: 54
International debut: 2015
National titles: 2 (Fours 2017 & 2020)
Occupation: Primary school teacher
Interests outside bowls: Love art, particularly drawing and sketching, also photography, cooking, baking (and eating it), and teaching.
Tayla Bruce got hooked in to bowls at just 12 years old, when she watched the 2008 world championships. The event was hosted at the Burnside Bowling Club, where her dad already played. When Bruce had been down to watch her dad previously, it was a traditional Saturday afternoon of bowls with members playing in their whites. She didn’t pay much attention during these afternoons but when she went to watch World Bowls there was colour, young people playing, and stands with people watching. One of those youngsters representing their country was Australian Kelsey Cottrell, who was just 17 years old at the time. Bruce thinks that seeing a young Kelsey playing made a huge difference. "It made me realise there was a lot more to bowls than I thought. It looked really cool and exciting.”
Bruce joined Burnside Bowling Club the following season and soon started working with Vince Roper, who’s still coaching her to this day. "He’s been there from the start and he’s taught me a lot over the years.” Her family, particularly her parents, have also been very influential. “They have put in a lot of time, effort, and support into my bowls. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my parents and Vince.”
Bruce had played netball at a young age but got sick of playing winter sport, when the temperatures are freezing, and instead committed herself to bowls. Before too long, she was named in the National Talent Development Squad and celebrated by “dancing around the lounge”. That was the time that she thought the World Bowls dream may come true one day.
Less than a month after her 20th birthday, Bruce made her debut for New Zealand in the Trans Tasman competition at Burnside Bowling Club. The 2016 World Bowls Championships came too soon but, shortly after, she broke through for her maiden national title by winning the National Championship Fours with Jo Edwards, Val Smith and Kirsten Edwards. “I'd been in a couple of semis and finals at that point and hadn’t quite got over the line. To get past the first one was a pretty big moment for me and a bit of a confidence boost.” Also in 2017, Bruce took lead of the Canterbury Youth Bowls Academy (CYBA) in Christchurch, which she’d started with Katelyn Inch the previous year. She is passionate about it "because it combines [her] love for teaching and playing bowls.” She now runs the CYBA programme alongside Bowls Canterbury’s development programme, holding monthly clinics for up and coming players.
Bruce was soon back in the New Zealand team and was selected to play in the triples and fours at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games. Both combinations lost in the quarter-finals, falling agonisingly short of the medal matches. After sitting out the 2019 Asia Pacific Championships, she was back in the Blackjacks for the 2019 Multi Nations and Trans Tasman later in the year. She combined with Jo Edwards to claim silver in the pairs. "It was such a cool experience to be in an international final, especially with a player like Jo against Karen Murphy and Ellen Ryan. Even though we lost, it was only on an extra end.”
Bruce started 2020 by finishing runner-up in the pairs with Clare Hendra at the 2020 Summerset National Singles and Pairs in Christchurch, but was overlooked for the Trans Tasman the following month. However, she fulfilled her dream of being selected to play in a World Bowls Championship team, when she was named as the lead in pairs and fours for the 2020 World Bowls Championships on the Gold Coast (which has been postponed for 12 months). Bruce celebrated her selection by claiming her second national title, winning the 2020 Summerset National Fours in Mt Maunganui with teammates Sandra Keith, Clare Hendra and Selina Smith.