It’s time to shoot the jack

Christine Blackford, Morgan Kennedy, Betty Geiser and John Rowley prepare to boule them over at this weekend’s National Petanque Club Championships. Photo: John Borren

Whether they are aiming for a Faire Fanny or just want to get on the Piste, petanque players will be pouring into Tauranga this weekend to separate the best from the rest.

Lobs, backspins and skimmers are all on the cards as Tauranga finally gets its chance to host the National Petanque Club Championships.

It is the country’s premier petanque contest.

The Tauranga Bay of Plenty Petanque Association was all set to host it on Anzac weekend last year until Covid-19 shot the jack off the proverbial piste.

Club president John Rowley says it’s a sport that is played in countless backyards and it seems every second rest-home is installing a playing surface these days.

But at the competitive level, it is a sport of much skill and dexterity and spectators are encouraged to come down to the club and watch the top players in action from 9am-4pm on Saturday and Sunday.

It is happening at the Association’s Mount Maunganui base, at 44 Tawa St.

John says the Tauranga Association has some top talent in it, including club coach Andre Noel who is the current Doubles Champion with his partner from Auckland.

Andre’s son Keelan, at just 12 years old, is the youngest player in this weekend’s championships and one of the club’s best shooters.

There are 18 teams of six players each coming from all over the country for the big event and the top players were starting to arrive mid-week to practise on the local pistes.

“The great thing about petanque is the average player, such as myself, gets to play and rub shoulders with these guys. Most of the time we are happy just to get a few points off them, though every now and then we win.”

Players range in age from their early 20's through to those in their late 70's, and, while most are Kiwis, there are a high proportion of players who originally come from countries like France, England, Tahiti, Vanuatu, South Africa and Argentina.

While it is possible to get to a competitive level in just a year or two, players like Andre are throwing up to 200 boules a day in practise.

“You have to have really good hand-eye coordination. Good players overseas are starting really young.

“But it’s very addictive once you get the hang of it,” John says.

This weekend’s contest puts the spotlight firmly on the local association so a lot of work has been going into the preparation - grooming and restringing the pistes.

If people want to try their hand at petanque they are welcome to come along any Saturday and Tuesday at 1pm or Thursday at 11am when the club members are playing.

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