Young bowler lands scholarship

Tom Taiaroa sends a bowl down the green. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Tom Taiaroa sends a bowl down the green. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
South Canterbury athlete Tom Taiaroa is taking life one bowl at a time as he aims for Commonwealth Games glory.

The 25-year-old bowls player has been named the recipient of an Aspect Trust Leading Athlete Scholarship.

Taiaroa was heavily involved in the sport throughout his youth but bowls took a bit of a back seat during his university years.

Since properly returning to the sport in 2020, he has been on a tear.

A bronze medal showing at the 2022 New Zealand champion of champions fours followed by gold (men’s fours) and silver (men’s triples) medals at the 2023 New Zealand Open Championships and 2023 Oceania Challenge Series has led to Taiaroa’s selection as one of 18 athletes in the 2024-25 Bowls New Zealand wider training squad.

Taiaroa said bowls was a big sport in his family.

"Quite a few members of my family played.

"My dad played and my granddad played so I spent a lot of time around the sport when I was a kid.

"I would spend heaps of time with them in the weekend and once they finished playing I’d have a go and it just developed from there."

He said the complexity of the sport captured his interest.

"As a sport it’s relatively straightforward but not straightforward.

"The idea of it is straightforward but it’s quite complicated to get it right."

Getting to be a part of the wider training squad was a massive achievement, he said.

"It’s been really good so far.

"I’ve spent a lot of time practising to get there, so it’s really cool to get that chance in the wider training squad and the plan is just to make the most of it."

The ultimate goal is a place at the 2026 Commonwealth Games.

"I’d quite like to get to a Commonwealth Games.

"It’s probably one thing we haven’t done that well in over the past few years.

"We’ve done well at world championships but not so well at Commonwealth Games so I’d quite like to go to one of them."

Taiaroa said he was confident he could get there.

"I get access to a lot of the resources now, being a part of the wider training squad.

"Getting access to a lot of the coaches will be pretty beneficial.

"The idea of the squad is to build up for the Hong Kong world champs next year which will lead on to those Comm games that may or may not happen [in terms of selection]."

He said receiving a leading athlete scholarship was immensely helpful.

"It’s really good.

"I pay for most of my stuff at the moment and that includes all the events that I have to go to.

"It [the scholarship] takes quite a bit of burden off of that which is helpful."

There was a bit of a misconception that bowls was just an old person’s sport, he said.

"It’s still a bit like that in Timaru but when I went to Dunedin and when I was at uni there were quite a lot of people that were a similar age to me.

"In Christchurch as well there are a lot of younger players coming through.

"I went to an event last year and I was the third-oldest person there.

"It’s an ‘everyone’ game.

"There’s not a lot of barriers for it in terms of physical ability, you don’t have to do too much and because of that you get to meet some pretty cool people and lot of different people."

Between now and next year’s world championships, Taiaroa will have the opportunity to compete in three national events along with six regional events across the South Island.