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Bowls In Focus : February 2011
38 Bowls In Focus Like so many others who have had the pleasure of playing at Corowa over the years, I am saddened by the reality that the one-time ‘Mecca’ of world bowls hosted its last State Group Sides Championship in Janu- ary, and will close its greens for the final time in a matter of weeks. It is another victim of the introduc- tion of gaming machines to Victoria and the spor t will lose one of its genuine icons as a result. In its hey- day there was no bowls venue bigger or better on the planet. And when the Metro West boys claimed victory last month it signified the end of an era, not just for the 15 great years at Corowa, but also for the sides championship as we have known it. If the whispers I am hearing around the halls of power have any substance, these regional champion- ships could become por table and will most certainly be trimmed to 12-player sides. There is plenty of good logic to sup- port this move. With the requirement of 24 rinks in contrast to the traditional 32, it opens up more location options, while the accommodation and catering costs associated with presenting the event will be reduced by 25%. And if this eventuates clubs such as City of Echuca, Mornington Civic, Mildura, Bendigo and Darebin City will be able to throw their hats in the ring as possible host venues. But I’m worried about the sides championship. For 41 years it has been touted as the showcase of the state’s top bowlers, and I well remem- ber the time when you had no chance of winning a state hatband unless you represented your Group in it. However, in recent times this mandate has been lifted and many top bowlers – myself included – have opted to spend a few more days holidaying with their families or to play elsewhere for prizemoney in prefer- ence to roasting in the Corowa sun over the sides weekend. Don’t get me wrong; I have fond memories of playing in six winning teams, in the days when every top player from every Group competed because state representation de- pended on it. But apart from a couple of celebratory beers at the club after the final, there’s nothing else hinging on it any more. One former state teammate, who no longer makes him- self available for the event, suggests it’s ‘meaningless’. Just look at last month’s champion- ship, when a second-string Group 14 side came within 15-shots of victory in the final. A fantastic effort by the guys – no disrespect to them - but one wonders what the outcome might have been if the Group’s best players; Michael Wilks, Todd Simmons, Brad Martin and Dylan Fisher had been there. So here’s hoping that some time soon our state selectors again insist that candidates must play in the event; added to the fact that each Group in the future will need to leave its four ‘lesser’ players at home, which must improve the standard of compe- tition; and we’ll see the sides champi- onship revert to its former glory. However, if a decision to shelve the sides championship altogether was ever an agenda item, I’d advocate an alternative concept that works bril- liantly north of the border. For years the cream of NSW bowlers have competed in the annual Country versus City Challenge, which is the most keenly contested event on their state calendar. It attracts huge crowds and generous sponsorship support, while selection to represent either of the combatants is a true feather in any player’s cap. Imagine this; the finest 24 country players against metropolitan’s best 24, playing five games over two days at any given venue around the state, with unquestioned bragging rights and state selection up for grabs. A concept well wor th consideration. In England they have a similar format for the county championships where the winners are presented with the Middleton Cup. I reckon we could replicate that trophy for an event of this magnitude. There is no person more fitting to name such a challenge series after than the legendary Bob Middleton, our only living Hall of Fame member, and one of the greatest players, ad- ministrators and personalities Victoria has ever produced. • Bob Middleton OAM, one of the greatest players, administrators and personalities Victoria has ever produced. Dougie Dougie Mark Jacobsen SHOP ONLINE www.thebowlsshoppe.com.au MARCH SALE 10–50%OFF Begins March 1st excludes bowls & accessories (03) 9375 4820 email@example.com $10 OFF COLOURED POLOS 15% OFF SHOES ALL VLBA $20 & MUCH MUCH MORE OVERSTOCKED WITH BARGAINS GALORE End Of An Era
March April 2011