The Blackjacks team to represent New Zealand at the World Bowls Championships in Christchurch this November has officially been announced today.
National selectors Dave Edwards, Peter Bellis, Sharon Sims and Raelene Peters have picked a team which boasts a mix of both experience and youth. While past world Champions Jo Edwards and Val Smith return for their fourth World Championships half the players selected will be playing their first.
In selecting the team National Coach and selector Dave Edwards said "I have been in this role for nearly 10 years now, and while I have said it before, this really would be the toughest team to select that I have had in that period. Tough because we had excellent competition for places in the team. There are some extremely unlucky players, with a couple of the positions decided by the finest of details. As a selection panel we spent hours discussing the options and slowly but surely we firmed up the final team.
For the players selected, the hard work will now begin, and those players have to ensure they leave no stone unturned to be at their best come day one of the event. This is to not only ensure we all perform to our best but also as a sign of respect to those in the squad who missed out.
We are very confident that we have selected a team that will produce the goods in Christchurch and bring home a good haul of medals - a number of those being Gold ones."
The women's side sees Nelson stalwarts Edwards and Smith joined by Canterbury's Boyd sisters and 20 year old Katelyn Inch. Current Commonwealth Champion Jo Edwards will, as expected, play singles and pairs. In a surprise move however she will not be playing with old friend Val Smith in the pairs but with national pairs champion for the last two years Angela Boyd.
The selection of both Angela Boyd and Katelyn Inch were without doubt two of the positions the selectors would have thought long and hard about. The two selected players beating off strong challenges from Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Selina Goddard and Nelson's Kirsten Griffin.
The country's premier skip Mandy Boyd will spearhead both the triples and fours which include the experienced Smith and new comer Inch. Inch has over the last year had an incredibly fast rise through the ranks to take her place on the sport's biggest stage. Her team fit in the end being critical to selection.
In the men's Shannon McIlroy will contest, as he did in 2012, the blue ribbon singles event. He will also play pairs with Dunedin's Mike Kernaghan. Kernaghan returning after missing this year's Trans-Tasman and Six Nations events.
Ali Forsyth, the only other male to have played at previous world championships will skip the triples and fours. Forsyth's aggressive style is much admired the world over and will ensure both these teams are real medal prospects.
After excellent results at last year's Asia Pacific Championships Dunedin's Paul Girdler is very unlucky to miss out to the in-form Blake Signal. Signal's ultra-consistent play at this year's international events ensuring his name was included in the final list.
In naming the team Bowls New Zealand CEO Kerry Clark stated that "with the competition for places being the highest for many years we know we take a team into the World Championships that, on their home greens, we believe have every reason to be playing when the medals are finally contested. Home advantage counts for a lot but with that comes the added pressure to perform at home. It's exciting to be hosting the World Championships and even more exciting knowing this team can deliver the medals required to make it a total success."
Blackjacks: Angela Boyd (pairs, fours), Mandy Boyd (triples, fours), Jo Edwards (singles, pairs), Katelyn Inch (triples, fours), Val Smith (triples, fours), Ali Forsyth (triples, fours), Mike Kernaghan (pairs, fours), Shannon McIlroy (singles, pairs), Mike Nagy (triples, fours), Blake Signal (triples, fours).