Commonwealth Games: Our medal winners can inspire young

By Harrison Christian

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Mandy Boyd and Gillies Kaka are Hawke's Bay first medal winners. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mandy Boyd and Gillies Kaka are Hawke's Bay first medal winners. Photo / Greg Bowker

Mandy Boyd's medal-winning success at the Commonwealth Games could bolster an increasing trend of young people playing bowls.

At 22, the Napier bowler is the skip of the youngest bowls team in the games.

She is one of two Hawke's Bay athletes who have had a hand in scooping medals for New Zealand in this year's games in Glasgow - Miss Boyd skipped the women's fours lawn bowls team to a bronze medal and All Blacks sevens player Gillies Kaka, of Havelock North, helped his team win silver.

Miss Boyd's proud father Doug Boyd, of Napier, told Hawke's Bay Today his daughter had been playing bowls since the age of 13.

She was born into a family mad about bowls - her older sister Angela is also in the New Zealand squad and her parents have a long history in the sport.

Miss Boyd, who also boasts two New Zealand titles in the lawn bowls fours, learned the game at the Napier Indoor Bowls Association in Onekawa.

Napier Indoor Bowls Association lifetime member Evelyn Anderson said she recalled Miss Boyd learning to play the sport at the club as a youngster.

"She had a natural talent. All the [Boyd] girls did," she said.

"It was a natural thing. They went along with mum and dad, they always involved the children.

"She is the nicest young lady - a lovely girl, and just an awesome bowler."

Miss Boyd later played at Bowls Taradale before she moved to Christchurch several months ago.

Club manager Tony Leathers said Miss Boyd came from "a family of very good bowlers".

As skip of the fours team in Glasgow, Miss Boyd was "the person who steers the ship," Mr Leathers said.

"They have the last shot and can decide the outcome of the game."

Mr Leathers hoped Miss Boyd's success would contribute to an increase in young people taking up the sport.

He said: "We've noticed a large increase in younger bowls players ...

"It's no longer seen as a sport you start when you're 65."

Mr Boyd said that his daughter was "a born leader".

She was the youngest bowls team skip to compete in the Commonwealth Games, and her team was also the youngest picked.

Mr Boyd started playing when he was only 15 years old and represented Hawke's Bay for 20 years.

He had a nine-year hiatus from the sport because he was shunned for being too young.

"In those days, if you were under 40 [years old], you weren't welcome."

His ex-wife Lynda Boyd, is also a top bowler. She was told at the age of 34 that she was too young to represent Hawke's Bay.

"These days, there's been a 150 per cent turnaround," Mr Boyd said. "It's not an old person's game any more."

Mandy Boyd and Gillies Kaka are Hawke's Bay first medal winners. Photo / Greg Bowker
Mandy Boyd and Gillies Kaka are Hawke's Bay first medal winners. Photo / Greg Bowker

All Blacks sevens player Mr Kaka, who played in the 17-12 loss to South Africa this week, which left the team with silver, also has roots in the Bay, having honed his skills at Havelock North Rugby Club.

Long-time Hawke's Bay sevens manager Conrad Waitoa said Mr Kaka's achievement would act as a booster for the region's aspiring sevens players.

"I believe it will inspire a lot of boys. It's just that hard work and a lot of good people around him, that's what the strength of Hawke's Bay is, we're a very tight and proud province.

"Obviously they were hoping for gold but to achieve silver is a great feat."

Sport Hawke's Bay chairman Damon Harvey said Hawke's Bay athletes at the games would inspire more of the region's athletes to reach higher tiers in sport. "I think the results in Glasgow have been absolutely awesome, as a country we should be incredibly happy and as a region. "Having Hawke's Bay athletes competing at that level is a huge motivator for others. It inspires people."

Hawke's Bay Today were unable to contact the two athletes last night for comment.

- HAWKES BAY TODAY

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