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Bowls In Focus : June July 2011
4 Bowls In Focus Although traditionally the last major event on the Bowls Victoria competition calendar, this year’s Champion of State Pennant at Barham Services Bowls Club was one for the trivia buffs with its col- lection of firsts. The all-country final was the first in the event’s 17-year history, while it was the first state final appearance for both main event combatants, and first all-metro consolation play-off. Similarly, for the jubilant Bendigo East side it was a first champion- ship win. However, with nowhere near the same fanfare, another one was quietly established when the first- ever female players stepped out into this adrenalin- charged cauldron of competition. Hail and welcome to Leah McCabe and Robyn Thomassen from Hamilton’s Grangeburn club, the West Coast (Group 2) pennant champions. Despite being a relatively new adoptee to the game, sports-mad Leah hardly put a foot wrong, while Robyn, who is no stranger to big time bowls, certainly matched it with the best over the three days. A state team regular with 118 representations to her credit and winner of the 2009 Victorian women’s singles title, Thomassen – our ‘cover girl’ this month – only made an obscure reference to the experience, saying the noise and aggression was ‘noticeable’ over the first few ends, but that she was oblivious to it from that point on. Ironically, Leah, who lead for Trevor Wilson, and Robyn who played third in the rink skipped by Ken Prewett, both emerged from their debut matches with 12-all draws, while Robyn added a second 12- 12 finish in round two. In last month’s historic all-country final the Bendigo East ‘Magpies’ defeated the game Kyneton ‘Reds’ by 25 shots to etch themselves as one of the four country clubs to have won this annual clash of the pennant titans. The Goldfields champions withstood an opening barrage from the energetic Kyneton side to hold a slender three-shot 32-29 lead at the 36-end mark in the main event. Spearheading the Reds charge was their rink of skipper Brent Petrie, Simon Buckley, Rod Smyrk and Joel Dickeson, who held a healthy lead over East’s Aaron Tomkins, John Crawford, Paul Vlaeminck and Mel Boyd when the halfway point was reached. However, with state player Brad Holland and his rink of Jack Clough, John McDermott and Ric Selkrig continuing their undefeated form, the Mag- gies accelerated away in the second half to record an emphatic all-rinks-up victory. This was the third appearance in this event by the Bendigo East men, who proved to be the superior combination when they powered through the five qualifying rounds unbeaten, claiming the scalps of metropolitan premier division winners and defending champions Clayton, along with Division 1 premiers Burwood, in the process. The Kyneton side won four of its five starts to claim a berth in the final, only losing to Burwood in round two, as they progressed to the 72-end final. This performance was a great fillip for the valiant Central Victorian champions, who were almost forced into extinction 18-months ago, before the Maryborough Highland Society recognised the club’s potential and came forward with a rescue package. In a riveting encounter earlier on the final day, Burwood, who had been framed as overnight favourites to win Section 1, were put to the sword by the Dromana Pirates. The margin of two was irrelevant, but it was the consequence - they had failed to qualify for the state final after looking so promising - that would hurt the metropolitan Division 1 champions most severely. Onlookers suggest the pivotal moment in this round five match came on the 16th end when legendary Burwood skipper Barrie Jackett and his team of Rowan Sharp, Jeff Bolch and Craig Holder - who were holding three or four close counters at the time - found themselves on the receiving end of a Lady Luck back-hander, after an opposition drive splashed the jack to a remote corner of the rink, where the directors signalled a full count of eight. Not only did this incident suck the wind out of the Burwood side’s sails, it was also the first loss to Jackett & Co in over a year. Prior to this match Burwood had been impres- sive, and actually lead the Bendigo East side at the halfway mark of their qualifying match before the Magpies swooped over the closing stages to win by seven. Bendigo East now joins other country winners Corowa Services (2006), Wodonga (2004) and 1999 champions Geelong West on the state pennant hon- our board. Out in front is the mighty Altona club with wins in six of the 17 championships to date, while Moonee Pond, Melbourne and Clayton are the other multiple winners with two apiece. This year’s championship featured the top eight country pennant teams along with the metropolitan premier division and Division 1 winners in a three- day bowls spectacular. Teams representing country Victoria were Kyneton (Central Victoria), Dromana (Yarra Valley Nepean), Grangeburn (West Coast), Heyfield (Gippsland), Cohuna Golf (Murray Mallee), Bendigo East (North Central), Wodonga (Ovens & Murray) and Chalambar (Wimmera), while Clayton and Burwood carried metro Melbourne’s hope through the five rounds and hopefully to the Sunday afternoon final. However, in the weekend’s first sensation a sluggish Clayton side lowered its colours to the eventual winners in the opening round. Ironically, it was Bendigo East who actually assisted Clayton into last year’s state play-off, when they prevailed against the previously unbeaten Bundoora RSL side in the final round. First Strike For Magpies • Top: It’s celebration time for the Bendigo East ‘Magpies’ after their state final victory. • Left: State player Brad Holland in action during the final. • Above: Magpie skippers Marc Smith, Brad Holland, David Keenan and Aaron Tomkins prior to the main event. • Top Right: Kyneton’s best-performed rink over the weekend was led by Brent Petrie. • Right: Clayton’s former international Michael Wilks and his men were the top combination at Barham.
August September 2011