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Bowls In Focus : March April 2011
12 Bowls In Focus It was in a blaze of glory that the Australian Open Championships returned to Melbourne and its ceremonial home at Darebin last month after a two-year sojourn in country Victoria. With no disrespect intended to anyone, this year’s extravaganza may well have been the best one yet. Sure, the greens were a bit slower than anticipated, cour tesy of the deluge of rain that waterlogged Victoria in the month prior, but they were true and dependable. Likewise there were a few hiccups with scheduling and the senior triples prizemoney fiasco, which left a sour taste in many mouths. But the Darebin complex presented brilliantly, a genuine international sporting venue at last, and the standard of competition and playing personnel was beyond reproach. Where else could you see the winners of fifty-one world titles and eighteen Commonwealth Games gold medals competing at the same spor ting carnival over one week in this part of the world? In its wisdom Bowls Australia jetted seven international cham- pions in from the UK, and as an unabashed bowls tragic I was thrilled to see Scottish superstars Alex Marshall and Paul Foster, Welshmen Robert Weale and Jason Greenslade, along with England’s Merv King, Stuar t Airey and Natalie Melmore in the field. What a shame none of them managed to be visible at the business end of the week! Poor Natalie, who played so beautifully to win the singles gold in last year’s Delhi Games, was a casualty in the first round at Darebin, going out at the ... er ... hands of Shepparton’s Dianne Hands. Perhaps the demise of this year’s Open poster girl was an omen of things to come, as these championships were also a blaze of glory for Vic- torian bowlers, who collected eight gold and seven silver medals in the best haul by locals since the event’s inception. Without doubt the highlight was the women’s singles where Victorian youngsters Lisa Phillips and Sam Shannahan faced off in the final to decide who would bank the major share of its $26,000 payload. Although good friends, they are contrasting individuals, with Lara’s Shan- nahan, 21, the quietly-spoken, tall, elegant ice maiden up against the impish 17-year-old Phillips, who hails from the Latrobe Valley but represents the inner- city Richmond Union club, and may well have lobbed up to the television rink on a skateboard. Leading into the main event Shannahan defeated two past winners, WA’s Roma Dunn, the inaugural champion at Yarraville Footscray, in a tiebreaker; and a straight sets victory over Kelsey Cottrell from NSW, who won at Shepparton in 2009. Lisa Spearheads Victorian Medal Haul • Victorian starlet Lisa Phillips rocked the establishment with her stunning singles victory.