Junior graded tenpin national champion Billy Wildgoose, 11, of Napier, with his spoils after the championship at Superstrike Hastings on Wednesday. Photo/Warren Buckland
Junior graded tenpin national champion Billy Wildgoose, 11, of Napier, with his spoils after the championship at Superstrike Hastings on Wednesday. Photo/Warren Buckland

Billy Wildgoose had withdrawn from the trials of the Hawke's Bay age-group tenpin teams because it was too soon so his father, Graham, entered him as an individual competitor this week.

Wildgoose didn't disappoint, emerging as the singles junior graded national champion at the first New Zealand Junior/Youth Tenpin Bowling Championship at Superstrike Hastings on Wednesday.

"When I went into it, I didn't think I was going to do that well but then I made it into the masters but the way I bowled I had a pretty good feeling about it," said the 11-year-old from Bledisloe School in Napier who also became the graded junior masters winner.

The year 6 pupil also finished second overall for all the junior graded bowlers.

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Sitting in second place after the singles and doubles sections before earning the right to compete in the masters, Wildgoose felt confident he had what it took to make the top six to graduate to the masters grade.

"I'm more confident about making the team trials if we're doing it again next year," he said.

The nerves had got a little jangled at the masters stage and that was reflected in some good games and others needing more work but, overall, a great learning curve for him.

In some respects, the schoolboy had other encounters at the nationals that prepared him better for the unknown in short notice.

"I didn't even know my buddy in the doubles at all," he said, finding out at the competition he was Mitchell Goggin but still unsure where he was from.

He laughed when asked if he was aware he had a target on his back as a champion.

Was Wildgoose prepared to defend his crown at a different venue next year?

"Umm ... yeah," he said, more laughter.

Wildgoose enjoys playing alongside his father in the Thursday league here, taking up tenpin only midway through last year.

"It feels really nice when you do well. It's relaxing."

Teams provide a splash of colours in the opening marching parade of the NZ Junior Youth Tenpin Bowling Terams' Championship at Superstrike Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland
Teams provide a splash of colours in the opening marching parade of the NZ Junior Youth Tenpin Bowling Terams' Championship at Superstrike Hastings. Photo/Warren Buckland

England-born Graham started bowling in his early 20s. Within a year of arriving in Hastings, he picked up the luminous sphere briefly again for traction on the silky lanes although he took a hiatus after son Shay, now 18 and pursuing a degree in the film industry at Victoria University, was born.

Two years ago, the 55-year-old mechanical/electrical engineer returned to Superstrike Hastings again when Wildgoose showed interest.

Incidentally, Graham met partner Estelle Wild, also English and born about 32km away from his birthplace of Derbyshire, when he arrived here a few years after living and working in Cairns, Australia, in 1995.

Graham said they had put the youngster's name down for team trials but a few practices later they felt it was too soon.

"It's quite intense that sort of thing and we weren't too sure so we would him out," he explained, adding centre owner Barbara Nonu had urged him to leave Wildgoose in the training group.

That aside, Graham had entered Wildgoose for experience on account of competing in a Wellington tourney a few months earlier and the Hawke's Bay Championship last year where he claimed a team bronze.

"He got a little nervous this time when he got to the nitty-gritty part of it but he just loves the atmosphere."

Graham said Wildgoose's five medals were a pleasant surprise and hugely exciting.

He was 10th in the doubles, claimed silver in the teams' event and the remaining bling in the championship category as well as a plaque.

Wildgoose filled in for teams who were shy of a player.

Christian Karatau, 15, of Hastings Boys' High School, claimed silver in the junior boys' masters, missing out on gold by a pin.

Sophie-Lee Leydesdorff, 10, of Arthur Miller School, had earlier won bronze medals in bantam masters as well as bantam national champion grade.

Emilee Adams, 16, of Hastings, was fifth in the junior girls' masters.

The teams' competition, which Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst officially on Thursday, ended yesterday, signalling the end the nationals which lured close to 100 entries.

Councillor Henare O'Keefe also was among the invited guests for what was a record number of entries for the age-group nationals anywhere in the country.

Nonu last year refurbished the centre, including upgrading the lanes, to meet the standards required to host elite events.

Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst bowls the first ball to open the New Zealand Junior/Youth Tenpin Bowling Teams' Championship at Superstrike Hastings on Thursday. Photo/Warren Buckland
Hastings mayor Sandra Hazlehurst bowls the first ball to open the New Zealand Junior/Youth Tenpin Bowling Teams' Championship at Superstrike Hastings on Thursday. Photo/Warren Buckland