Stoke bowler Steve Delaney with his guide dog Sally. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Sights set on NZ blind bowls team

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Though his vision is impaired, Steve Delaney has his sights firmly set on representing his country after claiming his first national title.

Steve was crowned the New Zealand B4 blind bowls champion last month, just over a year after starting the sport.

The Stoke Bowls Club member pipped 84-year-old Heather Smale in a fiercely-fought final that lasted almost three hours at Frankton Junction in Hamilton.

Steve had to reverse his round robin result against Heather where he lost his only game of the tournament.

“I managed to take an early lead and held it, it got to 16-15. It was very tight but there were four crucial ends after that which gave me the victory 21-16.”

He says it was a feeling of just “bloody relief” after the match and that his Milford opponent would have been a very worthy winner.

“She’s a battler, she is like an 18-year-old with the heart of a lioness.”

Adding even more satisfaction to the result was the fact his director was his father Colin.

“It was an intensely proud moment to have him there sharing it with me.”

Steve says his relationship with his father is stronger than it’s been in a very long time.

“We haven’t spent a lot of time together over the past 20 years, because he is the principal caregiver for my older brother who is in a wheelchair from a head injury. He’s been dad’s main focus and we just haven’t shared a lot of time together.”

He says blind bowls presented an opportunity to amend that.

“Dad acknowledged that this was a chance for us to be together. It could have gone pear shaped with the clash of personalities, but we have established a strong relationship on and off the green.”

Steve’s career began just 14 months ago. After attending a “give it a go” day in Tahuna, Steve was roped into the 2018 nationals just two months out.
“I practised 30 hours a week just to give myself a chance and I got third place.”

Steve suffers from a genetic disorder called retinitis pigmentosa.

“It means I have pigments in my retinas. Mine has taken away my peripheral vision. You have 120 degrees of vision in each eye, mine is down to less than ten.”

He was diagnosed at just 26-years-old.

“At that stage I had about 40 degrees of vision so it’s slowly gotten worse. There is no cure.”

Steve says he may go completely blind but there is no way to predict this. The condition caused his mental health to deteriorate before he joined the blind foundation and was one of seven New Zealanders that took part in the “7 Day Challenge”, an event that traversed 700km across the country.

He says now his mental state is as healthy as it has ever been as he eyes up a chance to play for the New Zealand Blind Jacks.

“To think that is a possibility is pretty mind boggling. I have had depression dealing with low vision, but I worked through that by being surrounded by these people.”