‘All happening’ for Southland bowlers

Southland Blind and Low Vision Bowls players (from left) Sandra Mayhew, Ian Blackler, Reg Menlove...
Southland Blind and Low Vision Bowls players (from left) Sandra Mayhew, Ian Blackler, Reg Menlove, Robyn Garder and Megan Cross at the Southland Bowls Club.
Beating sighted indoor bowls players speaks volumes of the talent of the Southland Blind and Low Vision Bowls team.

A handful of the team only took up the sport a few years ago and have since gone on to represent their region at national championships.

Despite their humble beginnings and sporadic time on the bowling mat, they are building their momentum to improve their placings at this year’s national championships.

The 69th New Zealand Blind and Vision Impaired Indoor Bowls National Championships will be held in Hamilton during Labour Weekend in October.

"There’s been a great improvement by these guys in their bowls since they started in their first years," Southland Indoor Bowls Centre patron and coach Walter Jack said.

"They are playing good bowls and winning here in the evenings so it’s all happening."

Novice bowler Sandra Mayhew had only been bowling for three years but was awarded runner-up in the women’s totally blind division at the national bowling event last year.

It was the "social side" of indoor bowling which attracted her to the game and being able to compete and play alongside sighted people as well as vision impaired which she considered "a real privilege", she said.

The Southland team recently played against their St Andrews Bowling Club counterparts, which resulted in Mayhew and her team-mates beating a combination of sighted and vision-impaired players.

"We beat them all.

"I don’t deny I have a competitive streak," Mayhew said with a laugh.

Six members of the southern team will be heading to the national competition including 91-year-old "statesman" Ian Blackler, who has been bowling since 1953.

The nonagenarian joined the Onslow St-based club after his vision deteriorated five years ago.

His preparations for the national championship were "going well", even though he had "a few spells in between", he said.

Blackler was not only known for his drive in the bowling club circles but also for his cleverly crafted scoop which he made himself to make it easier to pick up the bowling balls.

The innovative senior influenced his niece to give bowling a go and this year Megan Cross will also be competing in the national tournament as a partial-sighted bowler.

"My uncle is fantastic, he is also hard of hearing but he wins a lot of games.

"It’s just wonderful," said Cross, who is also secretary for the Southland Blind and Low Visions Bowls team.

Six members of the Southland blind and low-vision bowls team will be heading to the national championships: Ian Blackler, Sandra Mayhew, Megan Cross, Robyn Garder, Gordon Miller and Jody Cruickshank.

 - By Nina Tapu