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Thames Coast Bowling Club president Kaye Bunn has got all hands on deck to prepare for this weekend’s tournament. Photo: ALICE PARMINTER

National tournament bowls into Coast

It will be all hands on deck at the Thames Coast Bowling Club this Waitangi Day weekend, as the club’s members prepare for an influx of players and spectators for the 50th Aotearoa National Maori Bowls Tournament. 

The tournament, hosted this year by Tainui Rohe, begins on February 2 with a powhiri at Matai Whetu Marae in Kōpū. Two days of play will follow, with both mens’ and womens’ heats taking place at five different clubs in the valley, including Thames Coast, Thames, Kerepehi, Hauraki and Paeroa. 

The top 16 mens’ and womens’ teams will finish off the event at Thames Bowling Club on Sunday afternoon, and Bowls NZ will be live-streaming the semi-finals and finals to see who takes out the national titles. 

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Around 500 players from across the country have registered for the tournament, along with numerous supporters. 

Thames Coast Bowling Club president Kaye Bunn said her club was busy preparing for their hosting duties over the two days of heats. There are 128 players scheduled to play at Thames Coast – which means eight games and five full meals to plan for. 

“We’ve got a band of [club members] who are going to be volunteering to do all the food – we’re feeding everyone,” she said. 

“For dinner we’ve got oysters, mussels, king prawns, with a couple of hot dishes; venison, roast pork, potatoes. And then for lunches, we’ve got beef and lamb… They won’t go away hungry.”

For the tiny coastal club, playing host to such a large group has its benefits. 

“It’s good to see the smaller clubs being involved in a big way,” Kaye said. 

“It’s such a big thing for the community, I’m talking for the whole of the valley, for it to be here, [and] I think the success of it will put us on the map a bit, to actually say, we can host these big tournaments.” 

Kaye was hopeful the public would take advantage of the opportunity to see some top-tier sport. 

“An event like this, it’s a chance for people to go along, and maybe think, ‘I’d like to have a go at that,’” she said. 

“It’s all about encouraging people into the sport and I think if they watch the competition that’s going on, it quite often hooks people.” 

The recent mens’ two-dayer tournament at Thames Coast Bowling Club warmed up the green nicely in preparation for the upcoming national tournament. Photo: SUPPLIED