Nelson’s best bowlers are preparing for a new national tournament with a prize pool worth $28,000.
The Stoke Thunder are one of six sides from around the country invited to compete in the inaugural Bowls3Five tournament kicking off in Auckland next month.
The televised tournament will run for six weeks, with Stoke starting their campaign against the Royal Oak Rockets from Auckland on October 23.
Stoke Thunder team members Pete Hodson and James Pugh say they are excited to be a part of bowls history.
“It’s a different sort of format, a much faster format than what we are used to playing,” Pete says.
The competition will see two bowls delivered per person, with at least one female per team.
Also in the squad are New Zealand bowlers Kirsten Edwards and Shannon McIlroy.
“Shannon doesn’t need an introduction and Kirsten is another former international herself, so the team will be pretty confident.”
Brendon says the squad’s depth is its strength.
Teams play two sets of five ends with a single end tie-break if needed.
There will also be a ‘powerplay’ featuring, where sides can earn double points for a win.
“You have got to be on your toes right from the get-go, two five end sets go by pretty quick,” says Pete.
Team manager Brendon Hodgson says the Stoke Thunder will have no shortage of big bowls experience come tournament time.
James has represented New Zealand at the U25 world championship, while Pete is a former New Zealand singles champion.
As a pair, James and Pete also won the New Zealand club champs this year, winning 16 games on the trot.
While they boast a star-studded lineup, the men say consistency will be the key. “It’s probably the deepest of the lot.”
Brendon says to coordinate the team’s bowls, they had to adopt a new set. “The boys usually play with a wider set, but each franchise has to use the same colour so we have got a new narrower one.
Pete says, this has been an adjustment. “We have spent the last couple of weeks with them, so we get used to them.”
Joining the Thunder will be the Gore Rams, Point Chevalier Pirates, Royal Oak Rockets, Stokes Valley Vipers and the Woodend Jets.
Pete says, with some brilliant bowlers putting their names forward for the tournament, including former All Black player and coach Alex ‘Grizz’ Wyllie, they will need to bring their A game.
“I think the prize money is worth knuckling down a bit.”
James says, while it will be a big occasion, he will remain focused on the task. “I will treat it as another game, just with bright lights and cameras.”