Birkenhead and Browns Bay bowler Tony Grantham has been a constantly impressive winner throughout his 28 years on the greens – yet early this year he came close to throwing the whole game away.
Tony last season won a record five North Harbour centre titles, earning him the Supreme Bowler of the Year award and taking his total to 16. He has three national titles – singles, pairs and fours – and nine international titles including World Champion of Champion Singles in which he represented New Zealand in 135 games – and was in the 2014 Commonwealth Games bowls tournament in Scotland.
Now 46, Tony started playing at just 17 after he and a friend dropped into the Bayswater BC for a few games of eight-ball and several older members noticed his sharp eye for the balls and how well he performed on the small baize green.
“They suggested I give bowls a go,” he says. “Dad played at Point Chevalier RSA and my brother John was a first-year player so I did. The club coach helped me learn the game and everything worked out well – with a little ability”.
Tony had not been playing long when he found out Bayswater BC was holding the DB Masters Singles in which New Zealand legend Rowan Brassey was playing. “I took two sick days off work from the Devonport Naval Base to mark all of his games so I could learn from him.”
“In my first year I won the junior singles, open pairs, junior fours and was runner-up in the first-year champion of champion singles and I kept watching Rowan, my idol –to be able to play like him was my biggest goal.”
“I loved the game –meeting different people, visiting other clubs and the social side,” he says.
Tony says bowls began for him as “a bit of fun” but became more serious after the junior years. He initially gained competition experience from losing – learning from veteran players how to win.
Then, after almost 30 years of winning performances came the biggest disappointment of his illustrious career when he learned he would not be named for the Commonwealth Games bowls in April this year this year on the Gold Coast.
He was told in early December that he would not be needed for the pre-games match against Malaysia – a selection which had always meant a berth in the big event but this time another player was chosen.
Expecting to be out of the country for the Malaysia and Commonwealth matches, Tony cancelled his planned appearance in the Birkenhead Open Invitation Pairs – the annual tournament he has supported for many years and, with partner Justin Goodwin, was defending champion.
Totally shattered, Tony hung up his bowls and took a break from the sport in January to re-think his future with – or without – his beloved sport.
“I was so disappointed I was going to throw the whole game in,” he says. “It was an agonising time.”
Tony says he was interested in only one position –leading the fours and triples where he had played last year when New Zealand won the Trans-Tasman overall winner’s trophy.
After a break of three weeks to rethink and refocus on the season ahead Tony played in the Browns Bay Open Singles in which he won -“I had started winning again,” he says “and loving it.”
“So right now I am preparing for next season, working on fitness then starting training. My goal now is to play for New Zealand again – and the World Bowls is coming up on the Gold Coast in 2020.”