He’s been knocking on the door of Black Jacks selection for many years, but this season Marlborough lawn bowler Andre Smith may have nudged it open, ever so slightly.
The 47-year-old supervisor at Sanford Ltd and Havelock Bowling Club greenkeeper has been a standout at national and provincial level for many years, picking up the national fours title in 1998 and consistently impressing in representative play.
However, his ability to trouble the best of opposition has largely been overlooked by the New Zealand selectors, except for a brief stint with the NZ under-30 team in 1999.
But that may be about to change. This season his efforts earned him a call-up to the South Island team, which played their North Island counterparts in March, and a surprise message from the Black Jacks’ selectors, suggesting recognition at a higher level may not be a distant dream.
Smith, a bowler known for letting his actions speak louder than his words, said “I got a nice e-mail after the North South game from the national selectors saying, ‘keep up the good work … if you keep on performing the way you have been, things might happen’.
He appreciated the contact, but the vastly-experienced operator was not getting too far ahead of himself.
“At the end of the day there are four or five players who are very good and six or seven guys not far behind them. They put a lot of time into it … they are more or less professional bowlers, while we are just workers who play bowls,” he explained.
Included among Smith’s efforts this season is a victory over reigning world singles champion Shannon McIlroy, underlining the Havelock stalwart’s ability to match it with the very best.
“It has been a good season … last year I had a bit of back surgery but now I’m feeling really good, probably playing as good as I have played. Without blowing my own trumpet I feel I can match it with the top guys.”
His results certainly suggest that is the case. Apart from the win over McIlroy and South Island selection, he qualified for the last eight at the prestigious North East Valley singles and performed consistently well for the Marlborough rep side.
After being content to battle away over recent years at club and rep level, with some national tournament play thrown in, Smith’s form this past season has prompted loftier thoughts, especially given changes to the national selection policy.
“The good part at the moment is that the national selectors have gone away from the policy of selecting young guys with potential, to actually choosing guys who are getting results.
“That gives guys like me a chance … that’s probably why I made the South Island team, because I had consistent results through every tournament.
“It’s given a leg-up, not just to myself, but other people as well.”