Laying blocks, hammering away and holding a spirit level with steady hands are some of the things Murray Bicknell does daily as a builder.

"I'm building anyway so you're using your arms and body all the time so it keeps you fit," says Bicknell who enjoys nothing more then rolling a 15-pound ball down a slippery tenpin bowling lane after work.

"In saying that, you try not to use too much muscle when you're playing because it's all about timing, like it is in many sports," says the 59-year-old from Napier who is in a field of 29 in the annual four-day Tenpin Bowling Senior National Championship to be staged at the Pins in Waitakere, Auckland, starting on Thursday.

Making the top 10 for the masters cull is on his agenda because he then will have the option of either competing in Australia or going to Japan in December.


"I've been practising enough so I'm quietly confident," he says, revealing he scored 277 out of a maximum 300 points a month ago.

No doubt competing at the 15th Asian Seniors Tenpin Bowling Championship to be staged in Okinawa is higher on his agenda for a bloke who has been flirting with the 280-point mark.

"There's a good chance I'll get there because you have to fund the travel pretty much yourself," says Bicknell, expecting to foot the bill in the vicinity of $5000 to $6000 although there's immense pride in pulling on the free T-shirt with a silver fern.

It's the second year he has earned his stripes in the New Zealand senior men's (49-plus) squad of 12.

He was ninth overall in 2016 and 10th last year.

He went under his own steam to Melbourne for the Australian nationals.

"I didn't go very well there but I enjoyed it," he says after six of the contingent of 15 Kiwis made the cull for the next stage of 24 qualifiers.

The Asian Seniors will be a step up from the atmosphere of the Aussie championship and the rivals across the ditch are sending 64 (32 female/male split) to the Japan event.


Bicknell competes in the Bay league on Mondays and Thursdays and practises on Tuesdays and Sundays weekly.

Finding time to roll his arm and juggle his work is itself a challenge for him most times.

"I turn off the cellphone at work," he says with a laugh.

Bicknell says those with international aspirations must compete in a minimum six events each year of about 13.

Tauranga hosts two tournaments, with Wellington and Auckland rolling out the carpet for remaining marquee competitions.

He tends to gravitate towards the ones in the capital city because of their proximity.

Bicknell competed at eight of the major events last year.

This year he intends to compete in just as many, if not a couple more, but there's a burning desire to finish at least a couple of places better than last year.

"The more you compete in the more it affects the averages."

The best finish the former Hawke's Bay champion has had in a national masters tourney is runner-up.

A top-two finish at the Auckland nationals this week will ensure an automatic entry into the Australian champs but a top-10 finish should give him an entry to the Asian Seniors.

Fiscal and time constraints mean Bicknell will channel his energy into the Asian Seniors rather than trying to enter in both overseas events.

Bicknell played contact sports and mentored youngsters but tenpin bowling beckoned in 1987.

"I used to play and coach soccer," says the former Napier Marist club member who also coached Bay junior boys' teams for four years.

The then 44-year-old had knee-replacement surgery that put paid to contact sport.

He caught the bug during a couple of social games with family and friends before joining the Bay league.

"I love sport so it [tenpin bowling] was easy enough to do and it's so competitive, which is good."

Murray Bicknell says the new synthetic lanes at the Super Strike Centre in Hastings make a world of difference when travelling to other centres. Photo / Duncan Brown
Murray Bicknell says the new synthetic lanes at the Super Strike Centre in Hastings make a world of difference when travelling to other centres. Photo / Duncan Brown

Bicknell says the wooden lanes of yesteryear at the Super Strike Bowling Centre in Hastings were not that flashy but a $500,000 revamp last year has put a spring back in the step of Bay enthusiasts.

Preston Epplett, the chairman of Tenpin Bowling Hawke's Bay Foundation, has labelled the new synthetic lanes at the centre, along Omahu Rd, "as good as any in Australasia".

The parent body, Tenpin Bowling New Zealand, of which Epplett is president of the 55+ association, has sanctioned the new lanes "to a thousandth of an inch".

Unlike wooden lanes, synthetic have a "truer surface" and do not require as much oiling for better traction.

"It makes it so easy when you're travelling [to other centres] because the lanes are so similar," he says, reflecting on the wooden-lane era when it took time to adjust to the surface.

Bicknell says getting "spares" is his forte.

A spare is a term used in bowling to indicate that all of the pins have been knocked down after the second ball of a frame. It is awarded when no pins are left standing after the second ball of a frame. A player who bowls a spare in the 10th (final) frame is awarded one extra ball to allow for bonus points.

"Unfortunately, when you go away to tournaments, a spare game is generally not enough because you have to have three to four strikes in a game," he says with a chuckle.