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Bowls In Focus : November 2009
24 Bowls In Focus There is obviously more to the Webbcona Bowling Club than meets the eye. Tucked away in Wendouree, a northern suburb of Ballarat, it looks like your average club. But it is starting to carve out its own place in Australian lawn bowls history. Earlier this year when Queensland-based Brett Wilkie, who started his bowls career there, captured the Australian Open singles crown at Shepparton Park, the Webbcona faithful were tickled pink that one of their progeny had made good. Then, in August, when Wilkie outclassed Scotsman Wayne Hogg on his own turf, at the Ayr Northfield club in Scotland, to win the World Bowls Singles Champion of Champions title, they were cock-a-hoop. And now Ben McArthur, one of their younger brigade has emerged onto the scene, and last month became one of only five young Victorians to win two gold medals in the history of Australian Junior Championship competition. The other four are Moonee Ponds premier division skip and former state representative Brett Spurr, current Victoria skipper Todd Simmons, his step-son Dylan Fisher and Sunbury's Michael Vesikko. McArthur, who many at Webbcona believe is a better player at his age than Wilkie was, seems a little perplexed that his achievement is seen as anything special. "(It inspires me) a little bit," he said, obviously a little embarrassed talking about it. "I've seen Todd a fair bit on TV, watched him playing a few games, he's great." McArthur was part of the Victoria fours side to win gold this year at the Halekulani Bowling Club, in Budgewoi, and also won gold there last year playing pairs with Fisher - one of Australia's most promising junior talents. Playing as a second, with Dane McKinnon leading, Aaron Wilson at three and Matthew Rennex skipping, the Vics were 5-12 down at the halfway mark of the final before staging a remarkable comeback to win 21-12. Some bowls aficionados have credited McArthur as the catalyst for the sensational victory over NSW, as he constantly drew within inches of the cat in the second half of the match. "It was good, the weather was a bit warmer up there, a lot better than Ballarat," McArthur said. "Not much to say really. "It was terrific to be with all my mates from Bendigo and Melbourne, and it was less nerve- wracking than last time." The quiet 17-year-old apprentice joiner is not one to pump up his own tyres. "The first day wasn't too good, but I bowled a bit better as the days went on," McArthur said. "I just got used to the greens a bit more - I bowled okay, but not the best." He feels there is still plenty of room for improvement and plans to work hard on his game over the summer. "(My next goal is) the state Under-25 development squad and to try and work my way up from there to the team, and then, with a bit of luck, the seniors." And he knows it isn't going to happen on its own. "I've got to try and get a bit higher up the order now - see who I can beat and try to get myself up to the top standard." So he will keep playing pennant for Webbcona, training with the Victorian and Ballarat junior development squads, bowling in tournaments and working on his game. It is hard to tell whether the humble young man is just shy when talking to the media or if it's just his nature. His Ballarat Geelong premier division skip Tom Clarke said his number three is less reserved once he steps out on the green to play. "He's a bit more outgoing on the green because he loves his bowls," Clarke said. "(He has) a lot of interest in the game, (and) comes to life a bit." McArthur took up the game when he was 12, having followed his mum, dad and brother into the sport. "We live in Clunes and my brother used to play down there, and mum, so I used to muck around a lot at the Clunes Bowling Club." But these days he can often be found having a roll on the new carpet at Webbcona, where he is part of a young side that is showing a bit of potential, much like the young man himself. - David Polkinghorne • Left: In action against NSW during the recent championship final. • Right: Webbcona's Ben McArthur has won consecutive gold medals at the junior nationals. Back-to-back gold for Webbcona whiz