1 August: The speedy upgrade to the bowling club’s facilities is giving lawn bowls a new zest – despite the news that the new lawn bowls green will not be completed in time for the Pacific Mini Games.
Club president Veia Mani is delighted with the changes being made to the Cook Islands bowling centre in Tutakimoa for the games, saying the changes represent long term progress for the sport.
No bowling has actually happened in the past few weeks because the grass on the main green is being rested so that the mini games bowls competition will have a good surface.
Bowlers have used this ‘raui’ or timeout period, over the past few weeks to fill in as landscapers, carpenters, painters and labourers.
They are sprucing up the club to welcome fellow bowlers from the other Pacific nations for the biggest bowling tournament to be held in the country to date.
“We’ve got these working bees every night at 5.30pm. We’re crossing our fingers it won’t rain,” says Mani.
The competition will involve the six nations of Samoa, Fiji, Tokelau, Papua New Guinea, Niue and the Cook Islands while Norfolk Islands will have a solitary representative.
Mani is optimistic the mini games will generate intense interest because if past experience is any guide the competition will be tough.
The Fiji lawn bowls champion Ratish Lal, for example is ranked number three in the world and is currently competing in a singles championship in Scotland.
He will join the rest of the Fiji team in Malaysia for the Asia-Pacific tournament.
Mani says all countries are familiar with how each other plays from competing in numerous international meetings.
But the Cook Islands bowlers are not fazed about lack of recent match play while their home green is rested.
They have home advantage which they believe is in their favour.
According to Mani, the Cook Islands bowlers are undergoing mental preparation – learning how to focus, concentrate and think positive, which will be vital during the games.
“We’re hoping that next week the team will go on the green for a few runs while we’re still working on it. The plan is to have five weeks for the team to practise and to get their combinations right,” says Mani.
Because the bowlers are focused on preparing for the games and have poured all their money into it, they have skipped invitations to overseas tournaments this year.
Unfortunately the new green will not be ready in time for the games despite being fast-tracked because it is embedded with small stones and it is not conducive for playing on. But they still have to work on it and fix it quickly so that it can be ready for future tournaments on the club’s calendar including in November when a group of around 180 bowlers and supporters mainly Australians are expected.
Mani says the construction of the new green fulfils a long-held dream of the bowling club and he credits the Pacific Mini Games and government assistance for helping to get it off the drawing board and become a reality.
But the tight timeline and government processes left little room for overcoming hiccups to have it ready for the Mini Games.
“It would have been good if we had had the green for 12 months,” says Mani.
But as for the mini games itself, the bowlers are on a high.