Real Life

The dream team: 'We're getting those medals'

The bright young stars of lawn bowls are on a roll

By Kelly Bertrand
When lawn bowlers Selina Goddard, Nicole Toomey and Tayla Bruce gather on the green, the thrill of adrenaline they feel is just like any other high- performance athlete.
But as much as lawn bowls is a highly competitive, demanding sport, it's also a sisterhood.
Speaking to Woman's Day the day before they and the rest of the Blackjacks squad (yup, that's what our top lawn bowls team is called!) headed to Birmingham to represent New Zealand at this year's Commonwealth Games, the young bowlers say pulling on the Silver Fern means the world to all three of them.
"I can't even describe the feeling – it's just so much pride," says Nicole, 27, who will be attending her first Commonwealth Games as 2021's national singles champion, and will be competing in the triples and fours disciplines.
"We all have our why – why we do this and why we go as hard as we can – but there are a lot of driving factors. But getting those medals, that's the goal!"
All three of the talented athletes will compete in the women's fours team alongside lawn bowls legend Val Smith, with Selina, a former bronze medallist, also partaking in the women's pair, and Tayla and Nicole joining the women's triple.
"We're a close-knit team," says Selina, 28. "We've been playing with and against each other for years, so we already have this awesome bond. I know what makes Tayla and Nicole tick already, and vice versa. The friendship we have will be super-evident when we're playing. We're very united as a team and we have each other's back, no matter what."
Nicole, Tayla and Selina are part of a huge resurgence in lawn bowls across the country, with more young players than ever picking up bowls, especially within high schools.
"The idea that it's an old people's sport is definitely changing," says Tayla, 27.
"Younger people have been playing for a number of years now, and the advancement in technology, and more visibility on TV and in the media, have definitely helped. I feel like it's a game I can never fully master and I love that. There's always something new to overcome, so I'm always pushing myself. If you're a competitive person, it's amazing!"
All three women first picked up a bowl after seeing friends and family play. For Nicole, her career began because her parents played and she was too young to be left at home.
"They dragged me along with them and I decided to give it a go. The rest is history!"
Tayla was inspired by her dad in Christchurch and when she first saw other young people playing, she figured she could do it too. "I saw that the game could be so much more intense and exciting than the club games I'd seen previously. I was hooked."
Like Nicole, Selina followed her parents onto the green. Once she started, the former gymnast found she loved turning her sporty mind to a new challenge.
"I understood the game and how it's played, but I definitely didn't have a natural talent for it – it's taken a number of years to build that all up!"
From left: Tayla, Selina and Nicole in action
There's been a lot of blood, sweat and tears along the way for all three athletes, but all of the sacrifices have now been replaced by excitement – especially from the kids at the early childhood centre where Nicole teaches.
"All the kids dressed up in their sports uniforms on my last day. It was so cute. I walked in and they were playing the national anthem! It was adorable and very sweet. It made me cry."
And now it's showtime for the trio, who can't wait to crack into the Games and play their part within the team – although if it comes to designating a camp mother, it's Tayla all the way!
"She's 100% the most organised out of all of us – although we are lucky to have a team manager," says Nicole smiling. "But if you need to know anything, Tayla's the one to ask!"
"Oh, wow, I did not expect that," Tayla laughs. "I'll hold the passports, guys!"
  • undefined: Kelly Bertrand

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