The North vs South selectors have shown their hands, revealing their line-ups for the titanic clash of the Islands come September.
Hosted at the Hopes Dunedin Bowls Stadium, the Island battle will return to the calendar, with each Island to comprise four men and four women (with criteria stipulating that each team must include an under-26, over-65 and para player).
Just six weeks out from the event, non-playing captains Sharon Sims (North) and Dave Edwards (South) have named some star-studded line-ups, with several of the current Commonwealth Games representatives littered in the mix for both Islands.
The South will see three former New Zealand singles champions Andrew Kelly, Kelvin Scott and Blackjacks Lead Coach Mike Kernaghan join under-26 selection Jonty Horwell in a formidable southern combination, while similarly three Birmingham selections Tayla Bruce, Val Smith and Para selection Pam Walker will feature for the South, with Southland representative Sarah Scott rounding out the women.
Not to be outdone, the North line-up also features four previous national singles champions, all four of which are set to don the silver fern in Birmingham later this week, namely Mike Galloway, Tony Grantham, Selina Goddard and Nicole Toomey.
Joining the team will be para bowler Mark Noble, under-26 selection Seamus Curtin, High Performance squad member Leanne Poulson and over-65 selection Linda Ralph.
The format will see each Island compete in singles, pairs, triples and fours with picks expected to be broadcast live on an upcoming episode of The Bowls Hour podcast.
The picks will be alternate, largely modelling the widely-popular concept of golf’s Ryder Cup.
Both sides boast vast experience across the board, with an opportunity for those presently not in the New Zealand side to show their wares on a widely watched platform.
Commenting on the selections, Sims said it was a difficult decision to arrive at only four men and women – pointing out several other players were in close contention.
“It’s always a great rivalry, and it’s great to see this concept back again,” Sims said.
“I’m very happy with the eight we’ve got, and all of the players are excited and delighted to be part of the event. We have a good, strong and compatible team, with many of them well performed on carpet, so I don’t think the ‘big blue’ (carpeted rinks) will faze them.”
Similarly, Edwards echoed Sims’ sentiments, agreeing the team selection was “an enjoyable headache”.
“We’ve got a really good depth of players here in the South, and I think that shows with the team put forward. There’s some real excitement amongst the players and although it won’t be a walkover, we are confident that we will win,” Edwards claimed.
“It’s going to be an interesting battle.”
Notable absences include Shannon McIlroy, Ali Forsyth, Katelyn Inch, Jo Edwards and Mandy Boyd, all unavailable for selection on this occasion.
With the teams now picked, the stage set and both Islands ready to get behind their teams, who will reign supreme on Dunedin’s ‘Big Blue’? . . . tune in on September 10 and 11, or get along to the stadium itself and follow the action.
Let the best Island win.