Graham Dorreen, one of the driving forces behind Bowls North Harbour’s men’s and women’s representative teams, has a long-term aim to match, and perhaps exceed, centres like Nelson, Canterbury and Dunedin which for many years have set the national benchmark.
It might not happen this season, particularly as the men will be in a rebuilding stage, but there are hopes, following some encouraging results last season, that the women’s premier one team might be close to a breakthrough when the inter-centre teams’ events are held in Wellington next March.
Harbour’s representative campaign started well with a comprehensive defeat of Waikato early last month at Pukekohe’s indoor centre. That, though, needs some qualification as the Waikato teams were below par.
But there were many positive signs for Harbour, particularly as many players, several of whom have been in successful development sides in recent seasons, were introduced at this level.
This was to enable Dorreen and fellow selectors, Gary Stevens, who heads the men’s panel, and Bruce Tatnell, and Gail Bagnall, John McCormack and Ian Hardy (women’s) to grow the playing depth and to test combinations.
In recent seasons there were Open and Development representative categories, but for the 2019-20 season Bowls New Zealand has changed that to premier one and premier two, following the scrapping of what was effectively the one-to-eight-year intermediate category.
The need to rebuild the men’s representative sides, and of necessity move away from an old guard, has been prompted in part by the loss of some of last season’s leading players. Talented youngster Daryl Read, a North Island representative last season, has returned to Taranaki, former Black Jack Tony Grantham appears to have switched to Auckland, and Adam Haywood is unavailable.
Among those used against Waikato were some of the key players in the development sides of recent years, such as Northcote’s Brent Malcolm, Birkenhead’s Daymon Pierson and Orewa’s Walter Howden.
To provide a balance of experience a couple with distinguished past records in other centres, Brett O’Riley and Ray Skoglund, were introduced, as well as Birkenhead’s multiple centre champion Randall Watkins and Northcote’s Greg Taylor.
Skoglund is a member of the celebrated Manawatu bowls family and O’Riley, while playing in Wellington, was twice in national finals, once in the singles against the great Peter Belliss and as part of a Skoglund family four skipped by Ray’s father, the legendary Phil.
Mairangi Bay’s Theresa Rogers and Colleen Rice, who are not long out of junior ranks, and Birkenhead’s Millie Nathan, were brought into the women’s side against Waikato, though Nathan, following a policy of the Bowls North Harbour board for more experienced players to be preferred, might miss eventual premier selection. That’s despite the fact she already has an open centre title.
Internationals Wendy Jensen and Selina Goddard should spearhead a strong challenge by Harbour’s women’s premier team and there is a hardened group to support the two Black Jacks in Elaine McClintock, Lisa Parlane, Anne Dorreen and the accomplished veteran Ruth Lynch, who has made a welcome representative return. Another boost has been Northlander Lauren Mills moving to the centre and the Riverhead club.
Further representative preparation will come with a quadrangular tournament early in October, another just before going to Wellington, and the annual Battle of the Bridge against Auckland in December. But the national playoffs are the ultimate target and with the centre outlaying $16,000 to go to Wellington current form will be the selection priority.