Bowls: Brassey triumphs once more

Thirty-two years after he led for legendary Nick Unkovich and the Okahu Bay four in winning his first New Zealand title, Rowan Brassey yesterday skipped his underdog composite team to a stunning 19-18 victory over Andrew Kelly's also composite line-up to claim his eighth national crown at Taranaki's Paritutu Bowling Club.

And Brassey, shunned by New Zealand selectors in recent years, is not discounting another crack next year.

Only Unkovich and Gary Lawson, with 10, and Danny O'Connor, also in that winning 1981 combination who defended their title a year later, with nine are now ahead of Brassey on the all-time list.

Yet, when he stood on the mat, last bowl in hand, he had doubts whether he could pull off another victory and claim a seventh fours crown.

"With my last bowl to play we were seven down and he [Kelly] still had one to play," said Brassey in soaking up yet another milestone in his illustrious career.

"I was able to cut it down by one but they could have still got the seven they needed to force an extra end."

Kelly could not add to the count leaving Brassey and his team-mates to savour the biggest day in their bowling careers.

An early five and a four-shot reply by Kelly added some excitement to a game which always promised to be close as Kelly, with a completely different team than the one which won at Carlton Cornwall a year ago, looked to join Unkovich, Lawson, Sid Giddy and Brassey as the only skips to claim back-to-back fours titles.

Playing that last end, Brassey, with Cabramatta (Sydney) club-mate Beau Prideaux at three and father and son Rodger (two) and Brett Hassall (lead), led 19-12. The first attempt to play the 18th end was killed by Kelly which again left him chasing the seven shots he needed to tie.

It was always a big ask and Brassey, so often the "Mr Cool" in such situations, calmly cut down the count and a minute later celebrated with his rookie combination against a team brimming with confidence.

That quartet which included former Black Jack Danny Delany, who put Brassey out in the singles semifinals before losing the final to Shaun Scott, NZ Gold Star-holder Chris Le Lievre and Raika Gregory who won the NZ Open Singles in 2010.

Brassey decided "about three months ago" to make the trip. He recruited Prideaux, 18, - he leads for Brassey in their Cabramatta pennants team - to play three with former Avondale clubmate Grant Hassall to lead and his father to play two.

"Grant told me he had never played with his father at the nationals so I said I would come over and play with them," said Brassey, 56, who is not discounting returning for next year's 100th national, formerly Dominion, championships.

"Who knows what will happen in regards this four, but I'm keen to play in Dunedin again." He won the 2002 fours in that city.

As members of the host club, the Hassalls joined in the massive celebrations minutes after an all-Paritutu combination claimed the women's fours.

While Brassey may no longer figure in the New Zealand selector's plans, they might be interested in Prideaux. His mother lives in Tokoroa and he holds a New Zealand passport and has already played for the New South Wales under-18 team. Brassey has no doubt he could step up to international level.

- By Terry Maddaford for the NZ Herald

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