Where is the speed and youth in the Havelock North bowls team which will play in the Tiger Turf $20,000 national final in Auckland today?
The question had to be asked because this event is a fast-moving, shorter version of the usual bowls game with a 30 second time limit between shots. It's the bowls equivalent of one-day cricket.
The Havelock North trio which won the Hawke's Bay-Gisborne East Coast regional final consists of two 75-year-olds, Ian Mason and Dudley Hunt, and the team's "baby" and tactician, 72-year-old Bruce Stewart. "We'll definitely be the oldest team there. Hopefully the other seven teams will write us off," Stewart quipped.
The first Hawke's Bay team to qualify for the national final in the three-year history of the event, Havelock North was one of 16 teams to play in the Hawke's Bay qualifier at the Kia Toa club. They lost one game on the way to win-ning the regional final in Gisborne.
Today, the eight teams will be divided into two pools of four for section play. The top two teams from each pool will qualify for the semifinals and the two teams which make the final will play for the first prize of $1500.
Each game consists of two sets of five ends and a one-end tiebreaker will be played if sets are tied. Each player plays a minimum of nine bowls per game and if a bowl isn't delivered during the 30 second time limit it is picked up by the umpire.
Two players from each team are on the green together and the substitutes are poised to dash on when called upon.
"We had a plan which worked well at regionals and we will stick to it for the nationals. We won't disclose it in case the other teams read it," Mason said.
Mason has played bowls for 45 years and Stewart, who is also a multiple Hawke's Bay centre titleholder, can call on 34 years experience.
Hunt has played for 16 years.
"I haven't had the years or representative play Ian and Bruce have had but I've played at national singles and pairs levels," Hunt explained.
Today's final will be played at the Epsom club which like all other venues for the event has Tiger Turf.
"I played there three years ago and back then it was all grass so none of us will have any knowledge of the Epsom greens," Stewart said.
Mason hopes his recent winning roll will continue in Auckland.
Last weekend, he combined with Manawatu's Terry Johnson and Waipawa's Alison Libby to win the seventh annual Waipawa Invitation Triples tournament. He created the two-day event.
"Winning that tournament for the first time meant more for me than any of my Hawke's Bay centre titles. I had been in the second placed team on three previous occasions."
Other regions which will be represented at today's final will be Northland, Auckland, Putaruru, Whanganui, Wellington, Oamaru and Canterbury.
"Hopefully when other bowlers in the Bay realise us three oldies made it to the nationals they might be encouraged to play in the Hawke's Bay qualifier next year.
"There's no doubt this version of bowls will take off in the future as a great spectator sport and it will be ideal for television coverage," Mason said.
This one-day format will appeal to bowlers who don't have a lot of time.
The Havelock North trio fly to Auckland this morning and play from 10am until 4pm before returning to the Bay.