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Bowls In Focus : October 2011
Bowls In Focus 29 Goldfields Great: Hothead with a Heart In 1988, on the old MCC greens in the shadows of the Melbourne Cricket Ground, he defeated all comers including the legendary John Snell in a semi final and international great Rex Johnston from NSW in the final to claim the Australian Singles Championship. It was just six years after he first stepped onto a bowls green as a raw-boned rookie at the Golden Square club on the southern reaches of Bendigo. But there was no state trial invitation over the ensuing years - s electors were unconvinced, suggesting his accomplishment was with ‘four bowls’ and they were only interested in those who excelled with two. Three years later, when representing Northcote in big league Melbourne pennant, Ross – with just two bowls this time - skipped clubmates Barry Whiffin, Graeme Clements and Jon Bosisto to victory in the state fours championship. Then a couple of months later, at the posh Victoria Park club in Perth, Ross again performed brilliantly as he guided his men to the pinnacle, the 1991 Australian Fours Championship, by defeating a WA quartet skipped by Trevor Riordan in the final. But even then there was only tepid interest from the Victorian selection panel, although there was an occasion when he has invited to skip a reserve state rink, which proved to be his swansong after it lost heavily. “Look, at the time when I might have been a chance there were a lot of great players in the Victorian side, like Bryce Stewart, Bob Middleton, Geoff Sutcliffe, Don Sherman, Ian Caines, Mal Reilly and Rob Casey, while young blokes such as Mark Jacobsen, Steve Sullivan, Graeme Bridge, Peter Middleton and Mark Cowan were waiting in the wings,” he says philosophically. “I was probably in the right place at the wrong time I guess.” However, he was delighted last year when invited to trial for the state’s much-admired ‘Dad’s Army’ team to represent Victoria in the interstate senior round robin and absolutely thrilled to be selected. It was one of many notable career achievements, which also includes a plethora of club and group titles, from the diminutive Bendigo hard man. In 1997 he and wife Julie, a state fours title winner and fine bowler in her own right, won the state mixed pairs championship at Mitcham when they defeated the highly- fancied combination of Adrian Gray and Michele King in the final. And there was that ‘amazing day’ a few years ago when he ran roughshod over his opponents to win the Victorian Masters Singles at Richmond Union. In the morning semi final Ross defeated Armadale’s Henni Cortenback 25-2 to gain promotion into the final against defending champion Marc Parrella from Queensland. Then, after conceding a two on the first end of the main event, he went on a rampage to defeat Parrella 25-3 in the most one-sided final of them all. To his credit, after the final the aggressive Gold Coaster said it was the finest display of singles play he had ever seen, and there would have been a few – his dad is the legendary Rob Parrella, one of the greatest singles exponents of all time. But asked for the fondest recollections of his time in flat-soled shoes, Ross would probably suggest playing with best mate and perennial sidekick Barry Whiffin supersedes everything else. “ We played squash in the 1980’s and took up bowls at around the same time,” he recalls. “In 1985 Barry and I entered the Christmas Carnival Pairs at Moama and won all of our games to win the event in our first outing together, and we’ve been a partnership ever since.” In fact the partnership developed to the point where they became one of the most-feared combinations on the circuit and were rarely out of the prizemoney list, while amongst their many tournament wins are three of the most significant annual pairs events on the calendar; Deniliquin, City Memorial Warrnambool and Cobram Barooga. And although those close to him claim the little firebrand has mellowed somewhat, he is still a formidable performer on the green, while in recent times he has undertaken a thankless three-year labour of love and devoted his spare time, when not helping with his club’s greens, to compiling, writing, researching and editing a book 100 Years Of Bendigo Bowls 1872-1972 which is almost ready for publication. Our hothead with a heart might be short in stature, but in most people’s eyes he’s ten-feet tall. - David Allen • Right: Bendigo champion Ian Ross. • Left: In action representing Bendigo during the recent Provincial Championships at Ocean Grove. • Above: Blue ribbon champions: Ross and Whiffin (second from left) after winning the prestigious Deniliquin Pairs Classic in 2004.
August September 2011