A red letter day for the Blackjacks at the Asia Pacific Championships on the Gold Coast.
The New Zealand team has won three golds and a silver in the first four disciplines, with Gary Lawson, Kirsten Edwards and Wendy Jensen all celebrating their returns to the national squad.
Lawson capped the first finals day at Broadbeach Bowls Club by winning the men’s pairs with Shannon McIlroy.
And he did it in style, drawing the shot with his final bowl on the 18th and final end to secure New Zealand a thrilling 19-18 win over Australia.
“I let it go and it felt reasonably good out of the hand,” Lawson said.
“It’s always nice if you can do it with the last bowl but it was a bit nerve-wracking to be fair.”
Having not played for the Blackjacks since the 2009 Asia Pacific Championships, Lawson feels he “couldn’t have written the script any better” for his return.
“It’s great because there’s doubts whether you can still compete at that level and under that sort of pressure.”
Jo Edwards again delivered in the crunch at Broadbeach, celebrating her 600th cap for New Zealand by winning the women’s singles.
Fourteen months on from winning gold at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, Edwards has secured her fifth Asia Pacific title, but first in the singles, beating Norfolk Island’s Carmen Anderson 21-6 in the final.
“They’re all pretty special for a number of different reasons,” she said.
Edwards has singled out her rink coach Gayle Melrose for special praise.
“It is tough playing singles, you know you don’t have the support of your team-mates.
“She kind of gets me. She knows that probably less is more and we’ve got a really good bond as coach and player.
“She’s certainly helped me over the last 18 months.”
And Edwards is unsure how she’s reached another major milestone.
“You know 600 it’s ‘where did the hell did that go?’.
“Sometimes you feel your age but it’s a great privilege to play that many games for New Zealand.”
Good friend Val Smith is close to reaching that mark and she too has won another Asia Pacific title, skipping the New Zealand women’s four to gold.
Smith, Katelyn Inch, Kirsten Edwards and Wendy Jensen have outclassed Malaysia 17-6 in the final.
“It started from the front. Wendy and Kirsten played very well. They were putting good bowls in end after end after end and that’s what set us up,” Smith said.
It’s Jensen’s first medal at the event since winning gold with Smith in the women’s four in 2003, while it marks a successful international return for Edwards after a couple of years away.
“It’s been a really great fours team to be a part of and we’ve done really well at backing each other and we’re just over the moon,” Edwards said.
Inch took home a bronze from the fours in Christchurch in 2015, but is now an Asia Pacific champion.
“It’s been an awesome journey and stoked to come away with the gold today, it means so much to all of us,” Inch said.
Ali Forsyth (skip), Jamie Hill and Mike Kernaghan were the only members of the New Zealand team not to win gold on the first day of finals.
They’ve had to settle for silver in the men’s triples, after being outclassed 19-12 by Australia in the final.
But with three golds and a silver, the Blackjacks are just one more piece of silverware away from meeting their medal target and have already exceeded their mark of two golds.
The Asia Pacific Championships take a break tomorrow (Sunday), before competition resumes on Monday with section play in the men’s singles and fours and women’s pairs and triples.
The quarter-finals and semis are on Thursday, with the gold medal matches on Friday.
New Zealand’s post-section games will be livestreamed on stuff.co.nz
Day five results:
Women’s singles – Jo Edwards beat Carmen Anderson (Norfolk Island) 21-6 in the final
Men’s pairs – Gary Lawson (skip) and Shannon McIlroy beat Australia 19-18 in the final
Men’s triples – Ali Forsyth (skip), Jamie Hill and Mike Kernaghan lost 12-19 to Australia in the final
Women’s fours – Val Smith (skip), Katelyn Inch, Kirsten Edwards and Wendy Jensen beat Malaysia 17-6 in the final
Published with permission from Bowls New Zealand