Mandy Boyd is the only member of the five-strong New Zealand team who will play in the national championships.

Only one of the Black Jacks women who played in the recent World Bowls Tournament in Adelaide will be on the green at the National Open Championships, but national coach Dave Edwards is not fazed by their decision to take a break.

Mandy Boyd, silver in the triples at World Bowls, is the only member of the five-strong New Zealand team who will play the Hyundai nationals. But four of the five men, including singles bronze medallist Shannon McIlroy, will be in action.

Only Tony Grantham, a member of the men's triple who also claimed bronze, will not play.

The championships, being held in Taranaki for the first time, will give the New Zealand selectors a chance to cast their eye over potential players for March's transtasman series in Auckland with five-strong under-18, development and open teams to be named. "There was no pressure on players to compete at the nationals," said Edwards. "Some will play but others are absolutely exhausted and need a break after what has been a long campaign."


Of the 10-strong World Bowls team, only Australian-based Matt Gallop has indicated he will not be available for the international in March as he is off on a planned OE after the nationals, where he will team with fellow Black Jack Ali Forsyth in the pairs.

Boyd had contemplated a break but given her three near-misses last summer - when she was beaten in the singles, pairs and fours finals - she has decided to make the trip from Wellington to play. She will again join her sister Angela in the pairs and fours, where they will again be joined by Sue Burnand and Leanne Curry.

Last season's winning Birkenhead four - Carole Frederick, Ruth Lynch, Gayle Melrose and Lisa Helmling - will defend their title but all have restricted themselves to just the fours.

Sandra Keith, who was outstanding in Auckland last summer, will be back to defend her singles title but will this time play out of the Dunsandel club rather than nearby Leeston.

Peter Hodson will be back to defend his singles crown with runner-up Neil Fisher (Howick) among the 275 players who will chase singles glory.

Blake Signal, a picture of consistency in Auckland, will be back with Alvin Gardiner to chase a second pairs title after beating Hodson and James Pugh 22-12 at Cornwall Carlton.

Signal will also have a crack at a second successive fours title but he will have his own four this time as last season's winning team has broken up.

While there will be interest in the players chasing spots in the national teams, there will be just as much focus on the return of two greats with Peter Belliss and Rowan Brassey in action.

They will not team up as had been mooted but will both play the three disciplines in composite teams, with Brassey having in his four Brett Hassell from last year's Neville Hill-skipped team, who were well-beaten in the final by Andrew Kelly's composite four.

They will be joined by Grant Hassell (West End, New Plymouth) and Brassey's Cabramatta clubmate Beau Prideaux. Brassey and Prideaux will play the pairs and Belliss will team up with Lance Tasker (Mt Maunganui).

With 13 titles between them, 1988 world pairs champions Belliss and Brassey will be as keen as ever - especially Brassey, who has yet to win a singles title despite being lauded as one of the best players New Zealand has had.

Other big names, including Ken Walker, Brian Baldwin (back from the Gold Coast), Philip Skoglund, Kevin Robinson, former champion Petar Sain and former under-25 national representative Marny Jones, will all be in action.

National open
Where: Paritutu Bowling Club, Taranaki
When: December 28 to January 9
Finals: January 4, singles (men/women); January 4, pairs; January 9, fours.