2021 Australian Championships a family affair for many

by Val Febbo

The 2021 Australian Championships may have concluded a fortnight ago, but the event will hold a special place in the hearts of many, as bowlers were able to secure one of the highest national honours with or alongside members of their family.

There were brother/sister combinations, mother/daughter, fiancees and countless more throughout the week at the Broadbeach Bowls Club.

Tasmania boasted many of the narratives, led by Jess McMullen and her mother Debra Lee who saluted with Rebecca Van Asch to take home the women’s triples crown on the opening night.

On the next rink over, McMullen’s husband Rob was in action in the men’s triples final that fell to Queensland in the gold medal match.

The Apple Isle also saw the sibling combination of Isaac and Jorja Maughan take to the green in the mixed pairs, who would progress through to the final.

The Pathway Jackaroos pairing would eventually come up against the Victorian representatives of Ali Forsyth and Kelly McKerihen, who are engaged to be married.

Speaking on Bowls Australia’s (BA) Without Bias program, Forsyth labelled the ability to play with loved ones on the grandest stage as one of the greatest gifts that the sport can offer.

“It’s one of the best things about the sport to be able to play with family members, partners and so on,” he said.

“It was a very special day and one that is really close to the top of the tree for my results over time on the green.”

Continuing the trend for the week were twin sisters Cassandra and Bolivia Millerick, both of whom earned gold medals on the Gold Coast, the former in women’s pairs with Kelsey Cottrell and the latter on her own in the women’s singles.

The fours day continued to add the family flavour, with Greg and Tim Douce playing as third and skip for Tasmania, who finished as silver medallists to Western Australia after an epic encounter.

However, that lineup also boasted a relative pairing with third Anthony Einfeld the uncle of the night’s hero Mark Masel.

On BA’s The Right Line podcast, Masel speaks of the special bond that he and Einfeld have and is ecstatic to have been able to share a title not only with his uncle, but great friends in Paul Sinden and Adam Graham as well.

“Anthony is my uncle, so he and my mother are actually brother and sister, I think he was around 17 when I was born and he’s taken me under his wing since I was a baby,” Masel said.

“He’s been there my whole life, and just looking at photos of us on the green together in that final was special.

“It’s a really special thing to do with my uncle and with the other two as well.”

Not many sports give athletes the ability to perform on the national or international stage with their loved ones, but bowls offers that unique opportunity to anyone in the community to share these unparalleled moments with the ones they cherish the most.