When petanque gets serious

Linda Inglis, Josie Parkin, Arnold Lander, Alain Coulomb and Anne Briggs are setting up the piste for the forthcoming national doubles tournament.

It’s a watershed weekend for the Tauranga BOP Petanque Association.

First, it’s hosting the national senior doubles tournament – 27 pairs and 54 players from as far afield as

Alexandra in Central Otago to the Far North. And secondly, they’ll be under the gaze of the national body, because this tournament could be a dress rehearsal for something much bigger.

“Depending on how we handle this tournament, we may get to host a big trans-Tasman tournament against Australia in March,” says local association president Jo Ann Ingram. And there’d be 70 people for that tournament.

This weekend’s doubles tournament is a seniors’ event (over-55), but it will be competitive. Because on Monday, after the tournament, there will be selection trials for a New Zealand seniors team to travel overseas.

Petanque originated in La Ciotat in Provence, France in the early 1900s. For the uninitiated, it’s a bit like bowls – hollow steel balls are tossed at a small wooden ball called a cochonnet, literally “piglet”, or jack.

And the game is played on a piste de petanque – like a green in bowls but gravel or broken shells in petanque.

It took about 90 years to catch on in New Zealand. Now it enjoys a lively following, mainly among mature people.

“A bowler who can no longer lean down can play petanque because you playing standing upright. A golfer who can no longer make it around the golf course can play petanque.”

The sport has celebrity status in the French territories like New Caledonia and Tahiti. “It’s almost a national school sport,” says Jo Ann. “You want to see the youngsters play – it’s serious and amazing.”

In New Zealand, petanque is a very social game reserved for summer evenings with a glass of wine in hand. “Yes, that’s the social side. But there’s also a very competitive side.”

And to see the competitive side, the public’s invited along to Tauranga BOP Petanque Association’s terrain at the Mount Maunganui Sports Club on the corner of Kawaka and Totara Streets this Saturday and Sunday.

If you are interested in playing petanque, message Jo Ann at: ingram99nz@gmail.com or call her on: 07 5783606 or: 021 836067.

For more information go to: www.sporty.co.nz/taurangapetanque