Auckland lawn bowler Selina Goddard had a big international breakthrough, winning bronze at the world champion of champions singles in Sydney last month.
Goddard — not a singles specialist — is a rare bowls prodigy who had just turned 20 when she competed at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games, where she won a fours bronze medal.
We caught up with the 23-year-old Black Jack at the Carlton Cornwall Bowls Club, where she has a new fulltime role boosting membership and finances.
Congratulations on the champion of champions singles bronze medal in Sydney.
World champ of champs is quite special — you get there on your own merit, not selection. I was on cloud nine, qualifying in the top three there, and cloud 10 after topping my section.
It's so hard to win the national singles and when you get that ticket to the champion of champions, you've got to take it with both hands. I was so pleased to come away from Sydney with something.
Also, I usually concentrate on the teams events. I really enjoy leading — there's no place to hide. It is a bit selfless of me, I suppose, but it's how my brain ticks. I like doing it for the rest of the team.
What has led to any improvement in your game?
I spent three years on the (Australian) Gold Coast, where they play all year round — winter is actually the busiest period there.
I was so used to keeping my arm in from that experience that after I returned to Auckland, I kept practising on artificial greens at Epsom in winter ... through the hail, the rain, through the 'this nearly feels like snow'. With the majority of the age group playing our game, though, I wouldn't recommend they play in our freezing cold weather and rain.
The longer I play, the more simple it gets — perform consistently, from social events to our nationals. It's important to feel that pressure every time I play. It's hard to have result-orientated goals in international bowls because you need to be selected first. If I get selected, my goals shift for that event.
You seem so young to bowl, especially internationally.
People I meet, friends of friends, tell me they know the game through their grandparents ... I say 'I probably played against them'.
Where did it all start?
My parents (Irene and Phil Goddard) were Pakuranga Bowling Club members. Everybody there was second family to me when I was little. I remember plonking myself in a seat, and obviously being spoilt, getting a packet of chips and a fizzy drink.
When I was at Howick College, they offered collegiate bowls when I was 14. My best friend came with me and we had the best day ever, and they had coaches from Auckland Bowls at the event.
About a year after starting, I got a trip to Queensland playing for an Auckland team — that was when I realised the opportunities and the places I could visit. There aren't many sports like that at that age.
Is there much difference between Aussie and Kiwi bowlers?
There are a lot more competitive ones over there. I couldn't believe it when I first moved there and played a social event. They would bring out a measure.
In social events in New Zealand, if there are two bowls close, you say 'I think it's yours' or even give it away. The Australians might even get someone else to measure it.
It was actually good for me, playing against so many competitive high-level people every time.
What about Australia's razzle-dazzle Premier League?
There are lights, microphones, energetic crowds, a quick format. The rules are simple to follow ... a really energetic way to play the game. I'd love to get in the New Zealand team for that.
Are you superstitious?
I try not to be, because it could affect your game. But there are some things I like to do ... I always listen to music in the open so everybody can hear and it creates a light atmosphere.
I can't have any strand of hair coming out of my cap — I think it might flick across my face.
It was really hard at the champ of champs because typical Australia, there were so many flies. You're about to play a bowl to save yourself in a world event, and a fly lands on your nose. I thought, gee, how am I supposed to practise for this?
That's why I try not to be superstitious — you've got to be able to whack a fly away and stay in your zone. I also noticed from video analysis my toes have a wee spasm before I step.
Video analysis — how important?
Really important. I check on my delivery about once a month. I actually asked (veteran Kiwi bowler) Mike Kernaghan to have a look at my video — he's got the most fluid and beautiful delivery I've ever seen. He pointed out that, especially on my backhand, the toes on the foot which steps out were turning inwards.
It's all about angles, where your hips are, your shoulders are. The left foot wasn't falling in the right direction. I'd sent video to a lot of other people but it wasn't a main thing they had spotted.
It has made a difference, big time. It's exciting to know that something minor like that can make such a big difference.
Who is your toughest opponent?
That's tough ... you play so many games. It sounds a bit cheesy ... the person I have always struggled to beat is my dad.
He's such a natural. I'm practising every week, and he comes out after 10 months and beats me. It was always my ultimate goal, to beat dad, but nine years and all these achievements later, I still struggle.
He knows my game inside out, how my brain works. He knows where to put a bowl to annoy me, my weak spots. He is so competitive — he's at his ultimate best when we play. But I really enjoy playing him. It's good father-daughter time, and we always have a drink afterwards.