By the time the Trans-Tasman Test Match rolls around on September 1st - September 3rd, it will have been three and a half years since the almighty clash in Invercargill where New Zealand edged out Australia with a 34-32 victory.
After months of meetings, adapting, and decision-making, the highly anticipated announcement of the Mat Blacks Team is here; and what a team it is to take across the ditch to Ballarat, Australia.
Two new faces inject life into the side. For the men it is Shaun Blackbourn, Waikato, who earns his debut following a string of results in recent years; most notably his five island titles and stellar performance at least year's National Championships where he claimed the Singles and Fours. An impressive record that now sees Shaun selected as lead in the Men's Fours and skip of the Mixed 6 Bowl Pairs. It comes as no surprise that the dependable Joy Archer has been named as Shaun's lead to form a tried-and-true pairing.
Rochelle Cameron, Counties, also on debut, made waves early on in her career where she forged a swift path to North Island Team selection. Consistently performing at this level ever since and featuring at the top end of many tournaments, Rochelle has once again paved her path this time reaching the top and earning her spot as the Women's Triples and Fours lead.
Paul Wright will lead the team as Captain for the first time, though with ample experience in high-performing teams to draw from. He and Gary Low will unite for the Men's 8 Bowl Pairs, one of many strong combinations that will display great talent and camaraderie. Paul will also appear as three in the Men's Fours alongside Paul Smith, Gary Low and Shaun Blackbourn.
Back with spectacular form after becoming a mum in 2019, Sheree Holmes is a welcome return who adds invaluable strength to the Mat Blacks. She climbs to three in the Women's Fours for Dale Rayner, and slots back into the Mixed 8 Bowls Pairs, this time with Paul Smith.
Otago's Daniel French gallantly steps into the Men's Singles before reuniting with Simon Thomas and Michael Lawson as a proven combination for the Men's Triples. Further Mat Blacks to retain their spots are Teri Blackbourn, Denise Clarkson, and Suzanne Mackie.
Showcasing the depth of New Zealand bowlers, Kylie Gould and Marcus Trlin are two excellent choices to have at reserve, each breaking into the mix for the first time.
Congratulations to all selected, and all the best as you prepare for the International battle.
View the full team and playing positions here.