If you get the chance take it stacks up pretty well for Taradale couple Lloyd and Louise Fitness after their successes at the national lawn bowls championships which ended in Auckland last week.

Each reached the last eight in their respective pairs events, the best Hawke's Bay outcomes at an annual tournament so competitive that qualifying for post-section play is often seen as the equivalent of a podium finish in many other sports.

It was only the second nationals for Lloyd Fitness who took to the game about 12 years ago, blossomed after retiring from a career in the stock and meat industry, and was in the third-placed four at New Plymouth in 2016. But for Louise it was first time up.

The opportunity developed only when now Christchurch-based former Hawke's Bay player Richard Hocking invited Lloyd Fitness to join him in the men's pairs in Auckland. "I was honoured to be asked," he says.


His wife travelled as a tournament reserve for the December 29-January 8 championships, mainly planning to help her husband who reckoned he was going under-prepared, without match-fitness and needing some opposition on the practice green.

She got her big chance when invited to join Bowls Hastings player Gaylene Harvey who had already qualified for post-section knockout play when partner Natarsha Grimshaw had to withdraw because of a family bereavement.

Men's pairing Fitness and Hocking were eliminated in the quarter-final when beaten 15-13 by Thames Valley pairing Karl Garrett and Colin Gawith. The latter had twice beaten star pairing Gary Lawson and Jamie Hill on the way through and who went on to be beaten 20-19 in the final by Mangere pair Chris Lowe and Jordan King.

It had been a good fight, for Fitness and Hocking fought back from 11-2 down to get to the last end three down with a chance of winning. They took a single on the end, but it was not enough.

It was a similar outcome in the women's pairs where Fitness and Harvey were eliminated in a 17-16 loss to highly regarded Whanganui pair Reen Stratford and Linda Ralph. The latter reached the final, where they were up 17-14 before succumbing to composite pair Val Smith and Liza Prideaux in the last two ends.

Louise Fitness said: "I was really rapt being there, I was rapt with the experience, and rapt we did so well. I was filling big shoes replacing Natarsha Grimshaw, and I was wearing her shirt — it had her name on the back. I had to bring out my A game."

It was a particularly busy tournament for Lloyd Fitness, the president of the Taradale Club, who also qualified for post-section play in the singles, bouncing back from a first- match 21-20 defeat.