Youngsters the fresh face of bowls
23 Apr 2014
By Dana Johannsen for The NZ Herald / Photo by Dean Purcell
The inclusion of three players under the age of 23 in the New Zealand Commonwealth Games bowls team represents the changing face of a sport once seen simply as a retirement pursuit.
The average age of the women's team named to compete in Glasgow is just 31 - 10 years younger than the Delhi team four years ago - thanks to the surprise inclusion of 19-year-old Australian-based Kiwi Selina Goddard, and 22-year-olds Mandy Boyd (Canterbury) and Amy McIlroy (Nelson).
Head coach Dave Edwards hopes the trio's achievements will help to shatter the perception that bowls is the exclusive domain of the geriatric brigade and encourage other young people into the sport.
"We all get a bit sick of seeing the retirement home advertisements on TV featuring bowls, so this is definitely helping that aspect," said Edwards.
"We've got two or three other young girls coming through that were also in consideration for this squad, which can only be good for the future.
By the time we have the world championships in Christchurch in 2016 I think we'll have quite a few fresh faces in there."
Goddard said that while bowls might seem like an unusual pursuit for someone her age, she virtually grew up on the bowls green so it was a normal environment for her.
"My parents are keen bowlers so as long as I can remember I was always at a bowls club. From there I would just go and practise for fun with my mum and then once I was at high school I got involved in school competitions at Howick College," said Goddard, who will play the lead role in the triples and fours teams in Glasgow.
"I never felt out of place or anything, especially with the number of youth bowlers and collegiate bowlers they have in the competition - you're playing with people who are the same as you."
Goddard, who took up the sport competitively when she was 14, initially wasn't even on Bowls New Zealand's long list for Commonwealth Games selection late last year. But a stand-out performance for Auckland at the nationals in Dunedin over the Christmas-New Year period, and a mature showing in Australia at a transtasman competition helped her force her way into the reckoning.
"After [the transtasman series] we came home and had to go through the process of getting her added to the long list with the NZOC, which caused a few headaches, but it was worth the effort," said Edwards.
Complementing the youth in the women's team are veterans Jo Edwards and Val Smith, whose experience will be crucial at what is a pinnacle event for the sport.
The men's team also features a couple of players making their Commonwealth Games debut, including Auckland's Tony Grantham and Blake Signal of Wellington, who join more established names Shannon McIlroy, Ali Forsyth and Richard Girvan.
Bowls NZ chief executive Kerry Clark said the Kiwi team were aiming for four medals in Glasgow.