Bowls: Belliss, Brassey head entries for nationals

Rowan Brassey
Rowan Brassey
Two of New Zealand's greatest lawn bowlers, Peter Belliss (Aramoho) and Rowan Brassey (Cabramatta), will be in action at the national championships over the next two weeks.

Belliss (62) is back at his home club in Wanganui after a long stint playing on the tough Australian circuit.

Brassey (56) lives in Sydney and is still playing at the height of his powers in the New South Wales league for the Cabramatta club.

Belliss was the first New Zealand lawn bowler to turn professional and is a three-time World Bowls gold medallist.

He won the first of his six New Zealand championship titles in the singles in 1981 and his most recent in the fours in 2009.

Belliss has won three singles titles (1981, 1986 and 1992) and will be keen to add a fourth at the Paritutu club in New Plymouth.

He will be playing in the pairs with Lance Tasker (Mount Maunganui). They won the pairs together in 1995. They will be joined in the fours by former Dunedin bowler Steve Beel and Mike Nagy (Birkenhead).

Brassey, who has two world titles, won his first New Zealand title in the fours in 1981 as lead for the great Nick Unkovich.

He won his seventh national title in the fours in 2003. He will be chasing an elusive singles title this year. He should have won the singles final in Auckland in 2005 when he had a big lead over Dwayne Cameron (Homai) but let it slip.

Brassey will be playing with Cabramatta clubmate Beau Prideaux in the pairs and they will be joined by the Hassall brothers - Rodger (Paritutu) and Brett (Avondale) - in the fours.

The only member of the New Zealand men's team not competing at the championships is Tony Grantham (Auckland), who won a bronze medal in the world triples in Adelaide. He has work commitments.

Ali Forsyth (Havelock) will be chasing his third singles title. He won two in a row in 2003 and 2004.

Forsyth will be playing with fellow World Bowls representative Matt Gallop (Blenheim) in the pairs. They are both based in Sydney and won a bronze medal in the triples at World Bowls.

They will be joined by Gallop's father, Lloyd Gallop (Blenheim), and Graham Hood (Havelock) in the fours. The team won in Dunedin two years ago.

Forsyth was also in Andrew Kelly's winning four last year but is back skipping his old team.

Shannon McIlroy (Stoke), who won a bronze medal in the singles at World Bowls, will be keen to win his first national singles title. He is teamed with Lance Pascoe (Wilton) in the pairs, and with fellow World Bowls player Richard Girvan (Onehunga) and Kevin Robinson (Tokoroa) in the fours.

There are also players who were on the fringe of the World Bowls team such as Danny Delany (Onehunga), Chris Le Lievre (Onehunga) and Andrew Kelly (Canterbury) competing in the men's events.

Mandy Boyd (Johnsonville), a silver medallist at World Bowls, is the only member of the national women's team competing.

She was runner-up in the singles to Jo Edwards in Dunedin two years ago and in the pairs with older sister Angela last year.

The sisters were members of Sue Burnand's composite team which won the fours in Dunedin two years ago. Leanne Curry was the other member who joins them again.

Last year's singles champions, Peter Hodson (Stoke) and Sandra Keith (Dunsandel), are back. Former world champion rower Tony Popplewell (Mairangi Bay) is playing in the singles and pairs.

Numbers in all the men's events are down slightly compared to Auckland last year. There are 280 singles players (288 last year), 177 pairs (210) and 90 fours (112).

But the women's singles and fours are up. There are 144 singles players compared with 136 in Auckland, and 56 fours compared with 52.


NZ bowls
National championships

Main venue: Paritutu Club, New Plymouth.
Dates: December 28 to January 9.