Lawn bowler Jo Edwards shows off her Commonwealth Games gold medal. Photo: Phillip Rollo.

500 milestone looms for Edwards and Smith

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Nelson’s Jo Edwards and fellow Blackjack Val Smith will both pass the magical 500 caps mark during play at this year’s World Championships in Christchurch.

Only one other New Zealander has achieved this landmark being Hall of Fame inductee Rowan Brassey who played 522 times for his country.

Both Edwards and Smith hail from the United Club in Nelson with career paths that have been strongly linked from the start.

Edwards was first capped at the 2001 Asia Pacific Championships in Australia and since then has continuously been amongst the best players in the world.

Her resume already including two Commonwealth Games Gold medals and numerous world titles including in 2008 a Gold in the pairs with Smith.

Edwards is already New Zealand most capped female player on 493 caps so will be the first female to ever achieve 500 caps for her country.

An achievement not lost on the much-adorned bowls star, “15 years is a long time at the top in any sport. I’m incredibly proud of what I have achieved and I’m not finished yet. To share the ups and downs with Val has made it all the better and now to both go past 500 at the same event as her is something we probably thought would never happen. To say it’s been a great journey is an understatement. We’ve been lucky, we’ve shared a lot of success and a hell of a lot of laughs.”

Smith debuted two years later in 2003 and currently sits on 485 caps.

The 2008 World Singles and Pairs (with Edwards) champion is now based in Australia but still calls Nelson home.

While the team since 2003 has often changed around her Val Smith has always been the foundation on which it has been built.

In discussing her achievements Smith commented “like all people that are at the top of their chosen profession for a long period its hard work but also greatly satisfying. Like other sports people say though it’s the people you meet and the friends you make that is the real reward, and of course top of that list for me is Jo. To achieve this in Christchurch with her makes it even more special. I can’t wait.”

Kerry Clark the CEO of Bowls New Zealand says two players are not just two of the best New Zealand has produced but two of the best the world has seen.

“There is no reason at all that they won’t end up going past Brass’s 522 and end up being the most capped Blackjacks ever. I can’t think of two players that deserve it more.”

The World Championships are in Christchurch this year from November 29 until December 11.