Bowls becoming popular with youth

By Moana Makapelu Lee
  • Auckland

An invitation-only event, the sixth Heartland Bank National Bowls Open Championships has grown in reputation not only with the elderly but with youth too.

Don't be fooled by this friendly game of bowls, there's $20,000 of prize money to be won.

“Probably one of the bigger prize money events on the calendar but there's a huge social aspect to the event, “says Shannon McIlroy from Ngāti Porou.

Typically considered a sport for the elderly, 30-year-old Shannon McIllroy who has been playing bowls for over 25 years says the sport is gaining popularity with youth.

Mcillroy reflects on when he first started playing, "When I first started and we used to pla y U19 championships. My first one I played when I was 10 and there was probably about 15 players in the country. But the younger players are definitely getting involved now, so it's a credit to the people; by bringing out new initiatives, by bringing bowls into schools.”

One of the youngest competitors, 22-year-old Monte Pawa, says that not many Māori participate in the sport, however it's a good way to talk and connect with the elderly, “It's a great game to sit and talk with our elders, and learn from those who are real guns in the sport. I've had conversations with elders who were in the Māori Battalion and I got to hear all of their battle stories. That's what I love about the sport”

The four-day competition will be held over the Easter weekend. By Monday these young nets will know if they've caught the top prizes.