Waikato District Council Democracy Manager Gaylene Kanawa helped bowl the Aotearoa Maaori team to triumph during the inaugural World Bowls Digicel Oceania Challenge Cup held in Auckland recently.
Taking out the top medal count with four golds, two silvers, and two bronze, the Aotearoa Maaori team were awarded the overall winners of the competition, highlighting exceptional teamwork over the four-day period.
“We were awarded two gold medals in the Maaori Women’s contingent, two in the Maaori Men’s contingent, and our entire Aotearoa Maaori team (men and women) medaled in every event,” Gaylene says.
Standing out amongst eight other teams including Fiji, Niue, Norfolk Island, Samoa, Cook Islands, Tokelau, Tonga, and New Zealand Under 26, Gaylene says the win left her with a strong sense of accomplishment.
“Our result made me feel extremely proud to be Maaori, to represent my country and to be selected as part of a strong indigenous team.”
Having taken part in the sport for 20 years now, Gaylene has spent 18 years playing at a representative level for her club and region.
“My favourite thing about bowling is the diversity of the players. One day you can play a 15-year-old, and the next an 84-year-old is your undoing. I love the tactical aspect of the game too. It’s similar to chess in that you need to build a head and then protect it.
“I also enjoy our National Maaori Tournament, which Tainui Maaori Bowls is hosting in Thames on Waitangi Weekend in 2024. You see the same level of bowls at this tournament as you would at a National Intercentre, with teams from across the motu.”
Originally starting the sport after a friend enticed her into joining Point Chevalier Bowling Club with cheap drinks, good food, and a family friendly atmosphere, Gaylene now has big bowling aspirations for the future.
“My aspiration was to defend my Waikato Champ of Champ Singles title where all the clubs in the Waikato compete to represent the Waikato Region at Nationals. I achieved this a few weeks ago and will represent Waikato at the end of June.
“I am one title short of my Waikato gold star, having played in Waikato for three years. I have 35 centre titles in total which I am very proud of.
“My ultimate goal is to be reselected for the next Aotearoa Maaori team. I have represented the Maaori team at two national events and one international event and I would love the opportunity to represent my country even more.
“While I love playing nationally and internationally, the Waikato Bowls Centre is very widespread, similar to our District, and I am proud to be playing for “the friendly club under the mountain” – Pirongia. It has a relatively small but competitive membership, and their continuous support is greatly appreciated,” says Gaylene.