THREE cheers for New Zealand’s Jo Edwards MNZM, the sport’s number one lady and reigning Commonwealth Games and World Cup singles champion, who decided this week to call time on her bejewelled career.

‘I was sitting at the traffic lights in Auckland recently and I thought ‘I’m done’,’ she recalled. ‘I almost said it out loud. That was the moment when I knew, yup, it’s time.’
Edwards had been pondering retirement for the last six months (‘not that seriously though’) but those thoughts began to solidify in early November. A series of ‘tough’ conversations with her husband Dave made her realise it was time to draw the curtain. ‘People have always told me ‘you know when you know’ and that is definitely true,’ she said. ‘It’s always going to be hard and there is a definite sadness, but I also feel happy. It’s been 23 years – nearly half my life and this is perfect timing.’

The 50-year-old admits the unexpected Covid-19 chaos – which took her away from the greens for nearly eight months – helped to crystallise her thinking. ‘The (2020) World Championships event was always an aim, but it didn’t go ahead this year and who knows about 2021? But I also wanted to give Bowls New Zealand time to put together new teams and I knew if I wasn’t fully committed then it wasn’t going to work.’

The news will be received with sadness across the global bowls community and wider New Zealand sport. Regarded as the greatest lady bowler of all time – her 13 world and Commonwealth Games gold medals attests to that – Jo has been a giant of the sport on and off the green.

But it’s also a time to celebrate a remarkable career, encompassing a record 646 caps for the Blackjacks and a staggering array of medals and trophies, including four world titles, three Commonwealth Games golds and an unprecedented six World Cup singles crowns. Edwards struggles to pinpoint favourite memories – ‘that’s tough, after 20 years in the full New Zealand team’ – but is particularly proud of winning world titles on all surfaces (northern hemisphere, southern hemisphere and indoor), which requires remarkable versatility.

She also looks back fondly on the 2008 World Championship pairs title in Christchurch alongside Val Smith. ‘We are best mates; we have known each other since school so that was pretty special.’

There will be a lot more written and said about Jo’s magnificent career over the next few days and weeks – our official magazine Inside Bowls will carry a major feature on the amazing Kiwi next month.

World Bowls congratulates Jo on her distinguished career and wishes her the best of everything in the future.

Photo: Jo with Val Smith at the 2016 World Bowls Championships in Christchurch when both were acknowledged for their 500 international representations.