New Zealand has a strong home ad­van­tage for the bowls world cham­pi­onship start­ing in Christchurch this week. Ken Ni­chol­son rates the team’s chances.

Sunday Star-Times - - Sport -

MEN Sin­gles: Ali Forsyth (New Zealand).

Through­out 2007, Forsyth showed he could beat any­one. And he was con­sis­tent, as his run of 11 con­sec­u­tive test wins in 2007 proved. He’s an ag­gres­sive player who is not shy when it comes to pulling out the big drives but some crit­ics think he over-in­dulges in this de­part­ment. When Forsyth gets the pace of the greens, he’s as ac­cu­rate on the draw as any­one and he is at his best when he is forc­ing his op­po­nents to do the driv­ing. A like­able but volatile char­ac­ter, Forsyth has some­thing of a short fuse on the green but he has shown in the past year that he can keep this in check.

Play­ers to watch in post-sec­tion: Dar­ren Bur­nett (Scot­land), Gerry Baker (South Africa), Nick Cole (Spain), Martin McHugh (Ire­land), Mark Wal­ton (Eng­land).

Pairs: New Zealand – Rus­sell Meyer, lead, Gary Law­son, skip.

If their last in­ter­na­tional out­ing, against the high-fly­ing Aus­tralians Aron Sher­riff and Nathan Rice, is used as a guide­line, mark down Meyer and Law­son as a re­al­is­tic gold medal chance. At their best, few com­bi­na­tions will match this pair who are deep in ex­pe­ri­ence and class. They can have off days, as has been shown in the tests lead­ing up to the World Bowls but, when they hit their straps, Meyer and Law­son have all the an­swers to beat any op­po­si­tion.

Teams to watch in post-sec­tion: Aus­tralia – Aron Sher­riff, lead, Nathan Rice, skip; Eng­land – Mark Ban­tock, lead, Robert New­man, skip; Canada – Mark Sandford, lead, Ryan Bester, skip; Scot­land – Billy Mel­lors, lead, Dar­ren Bur­nett, skip.

Triples: New Zealand – Andrew Todd, lead, Ali Forsyth, Richard Gir­van, skip.

Like the pair, the Kiwi triple fin­ished their 2007 in­ter­na­tional prepa­ra­tions on the high­est note, beat- ing the pre­vi­ously all-con­quer­ing Aus­tralians with a bril­liant dis­play on the third day of the trans-Tas­man se­ries. Gir­van, in par­tic­u­lar, had one of those games when ev­ery­thing turned to gold and he’ll be want­ing to re­pro­duce that form through­out World Bowls. If he does, op­po­nents will be shak­ing their heads in de­spair. New Zealand has drawn the eas­ier of the two sec­tions but there’s some mighty tough op­po­si­tion in post-sec­tion, es­pe­cially from the Bri­tish teams and Aus­tralia.

Teams to watch in post sec­tion: Aus­tralia – Bill Cornehls, lead, Wayne Tur­ley, Mark Casey; Eng­land – Mark Wal­ton, lead, Stephen Far­ish, Gra­ham Shad­well, skip; Scot­land – Wayne Hogg, lead, Wil­lie Wood, David Pea­cock, skip.

Fours: New Zealand – Andrew Todd, lead, Richard Gir­van, Rus­sell Meyer, Gary Law­son, skip.

New Zealand has a very solid unit which of­ten re­lies on the form of Law­son at skip, sim­ply be­cause he has the task of de­liv­er­ing the last two bowls, and the Ki­wis are a def­i­nite medal chance, es­pe­cially on their own greens and with a rea­son­ably com­fort­able draw in sec­tion play.

Teams to watch in post sec­tion play: Aus­tralia – Bill Cornehls, lead, Wayne Tur­ley, Nathan Rice, Mark Casey, skip; Eng­land – Mark Ban­tock, lead, Gra­ham Shad­well, Stephen Far­ish, Robert New­man, skip; Scot­land – Wayne Hogg, lead, Billy Mel­lors, Wil­lie Wood, David Pea­cock, skip; Ire­land – Jonathan Ross, lead, Jim Baker, Jeremy Henry, Neil Booth, skip.

WOMEN Sin­gles: Val Smith (New Zealand).

It wouldn’t have taken long for the na­tional se­lec­tors to settle on Val Smith (above) as the women’s sin­gles player. She’s tal­ented and has a ton of grit – just the right in­gre­di­ents to soak up pres­sure. Her record in 2007 is sec­ond to none and she, rightly so, was named New Zealand’s Player of the Year at the an­nual awards. While she’s suf­fered a hand­ful of losses in the past in­ter­na­tional se­ries, Smith has the abil­ity to pro­duce her best when it’s most needed and she’s beaten the best in the world in the past 12 months. In that world-best group are Malaysia’s Siti Zalina, the win­ner of the sin­gles gold medal at the last two Com­mon­wealth Games, South Africans Lorna Trig­well and Colleen Webb, Scot­land’s Kay Mo­ran, and the Aus­tralians, Karen Mur­phy, Julie Kee­gan and teenage whiz­zkid, Kelsey Cot­trell.

Play­ers to watch in post sec­tion: Siti Zalina (Malaysia), Kay Mo­ran (Scot­land), Mar­garet John­ston (Ire­land); Kelsey Cot­trell (Aus­tralia).

Pairs: New Zealand – Val Smith, lead, Jo Ed­wards, skip.

Th­ese two have been the clos­est of friends since they grew up in Nelson as school­girls – and they play like it. Ed­wards and Smith now have tons of ex­pe­ri­ence be­hind them and, while they are in a very tough dis­ci­pline against hordes of tal­ented com­bi­na­tions, they can give as much as they get. On her game, Smith is the per­fect lead, while Ed­wards has ac­cu­mu­lated a wide range of shots in her role as skip of the pairs and fours. Both will want to be­gin World Bowls in con­fi­dent fash­ion – if that hap­pens, they’ll be up with the best of them when it comes to medal time.

Coun­tries to watch in post-sec­tion: Aus­tralia – Lynsey Ar­mitage, lead, Karen Mur­phy, skip; Malaysia – Siti Zalina, lead, Nor Hashimah Is­mail, skip; Scot­land – Kay Mo­ran, lead, Mar­garet Letham, skip.

Triples: New Zealand – Ma­rina Khan, lead, Jan Khan, Sharon Sims, skip.

De­spite fluc­tu­at­ing form through­out the in­ter­na­tional sea­son lead­ing up to World Bowls, there’s enough ex­pe­ri­ence in this trio to be in the reck­on­ing – if the two Khan sis­ters and Sims can get away to a roar­ing start. To help them settle into con­sis­tent form, they have a rel­a­tively kind draw and two or three good wins early on will in­still some self be­lief which may have been miss­ing at times in 2007. Sims has done it all be­fore and she’s got three world ti­tles to prove it.

Coun­tries to watch in post sec­tion: Scot­land – Joyce Dickie, lead, Seona Black, Mar­garet Letham, skip; Malaysia – Nor Shafee­qah Yahya, lead, Nur Fidrah Noh, Azlina Ar­shad, skip; Aus­tralia – Kelsey Cot­trell, lead, Julie Kee­gan, Claire Duke, skip.

Fours: New Zealand – Ma­rina Khan, lead, Jan Khan, Sharon Sims, Jo Ed­wards, skip.

All four have a wealth of ex­pe­ri­ence at in­ter­na­tional level and, in­di­vid­u­ally, have en­joyed a good deal of suc­cess. Now it’s up to this quar­tet to put all their tal­ents to­gether and, if they achieve this, they have the abil­ity to mount a re­al­is­tic bid for a medal. As in any fours com­pe­ti­tion, much de­pends on the form of the skip but Ed­wards will need ac­cu­rate bowls from the Khan sis­ters and a sup­port­ing role from Sims, to beat off the im­pres­sive list of other medal claimants from the main coun­tries. Ed­wards’ quar­tet should have gained lift in when they rolled the tough Aus­tralians in the last test of the trans-Tas­man se­ries and, if they play to that stan­dard, they’ll shake up a few more favoured coun­tries as well.

Coun­tries to watch in post sec­tion: Aus­tralia – Lynsey Ar­mitage, lead, Claire Duke, Julie Kee­gan, Karen Mur­phy, skip; South Africa – Sylvia Burns, lead, Lo­raine Vic­tor, Ch­eryl Cox, Lorna Trig­well, skip; Ire­land – Al­li­son Bell, lead, Donna McNally, Bernie O’Neill, Jen­nifer Dowds, skip.

Ken Ni­chol­son is me­dia li­ai­son for Bowls New Zealand.

Photo: The Press

Mr Con­sis­tency: Ali Forsyth on the charge.

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