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Bowls In Focus : October 2011
Bowls In Focus 33 “ Horse riding was my big passion for a long time.” In fact it could be said that ‘Koke’, who she describes as a crazy mad novelty pony that carried her to state championship level as a young rider, was the real love of her life and remained a part of it for many years after. “ Mum and my sisters bred dogs and went to shows while dad and I did the horse thing,” she said. Melissa rode for many years but like many women she stepped down from the saddle for good when realising her responsibility to her two young sons. But between the ponies and horses there was lots of other competitive sports, starting with netball and then changing the big round ball for a hockey stick, a sport she enjoyed with her sisters. “Actually my younger sister Carolyn was an Under-16 and Under-19 state player,” she said proudly. Like many hockey players she opted for cricket in the summer months and with the family settling on the Mornington Peninsula, she joined the Frankston Women’s Cricket Club. As an opening bowler with a long run up she delivered sizzling swingers and short rising balls with attitude that made light of the opposition bats. But she admits to being far from brilliant with the bat. “I was the Glen McGrath of women’s cricket. I think I made the most ducks for any woman cricket player ever. “Actually I was at one stage opening the bowling when I was seven months pregnant,” she said laughing about the confusion that this caused the opposing bowlers who didn’t quite know how to handle her. And she emphasises that her son was not born with a cricket bat in his hand and has no interest in playing the game at all. “I’ve got two sons, I married and had my family early which was great,” she explained. Cricket was her main spor t for many years until one day she was standing out fielding in 35-degree heat. “ I asked myself, why wasn’t I water skiing?” So she and her family took to water skiing and it was this and boating that led them to the Echuca area, where land was purchased in an ideal setting about 10kms out of town and subsequently a track was worn between there and Melbourne. Sadly her marriage split but ‘Old Man Murray’ had, like it does to so many, entered her blood and she decided to stay on in the area. Bowls had entered her life and with it a group of new friends. “ I’ve met the most wonder ful people at all levels. At bowls you can enjoy yourself at any level at all times,” she said. But she didn’t meet the man she recently married, Craig Larcombe, an Echuca builder, on the bowling green and further more he hadn’t picked up a bowl in his life. “I told him it was very important tomeanditwouldbeagood idea if he tried it.” Now she has to almost feed him a lawn bowl for breakfast and he has taken to it like a duck to water. Melissa has had an meteoric rise to the top of the game, which she explains hasn’t been all that easy as she had to overcome nervousness and beginner’s mistakes, something she paid for against the great Karen Murphy. “I was so excited about playing her in the first round of the NSW Open last year but I learnt a lesson by making a mistake. She told me about it after the game to never give away the mat to someone that good.” Explaining that she had the upper hand on long ends and at one stage thought it better to be in the position of playing the last bowl. It was all Karen needed as she changed to short ends and that was that. But in Karen Murphy there is a generous player and the mistake was duly pointed out and discussed. With some creditable wins now under her belt and a huge love of team bowls – she recently skipped a four in a Victorian country side against the South Australian Development Squad - Melissa made a recent move across the river from Moama to the City of Echuca club, where she says she thrives on the smaller club atmosphere. She is club coach and chairman of selectors. Personally she has high aspirations to which she has every chance of succeeding. “I’d love to play for Australia butIam too old,” she said. Her remark perhaps throwing a well- deser ved shot at selection policy, recently overturned by Julie Keegan’s recall to the Aussie squad. “ She is my inspiration, and to be as mentally tough and fiercely competitive as Joyce Lindores is my ultimate goal. Joycie and Karen are the two best players I’ve ever seen and both are good friends of mine and my heroes,” she concluded. But she does some inspiring of her own. “ Find something positive in every bowl you put down,” is something she emphasises to her club’s pennant sides. Melissa puts ever ything into the game and her own battle cry; ‘I just love it’ clearly says it all. - Di Gatehouse • Right: Reigning state singles champion Melissa Larcombe. • Above: On route to the title at Yarraville Footscray earlier this year. • Left: Pairs champs: Melissa skipped Shepparton Park’s Donna Clarke (left) to victory in the women’s pairs at this year’s Moama May Carnival.
August September 2011