#BPL09: Form Guide

by Domenic Favata

Ahead of #BPL09, we give you the player-by-player rundown on who’s in-form as teams make their way across the ditch to New Zealand for the ninth edition of the Bowls Premier League (BPL).

BPL09 will be held from Monday, February 25 to Thursday, February 28 in Lower Hutt, New Zealand.

Matches during the day (Tuesday-Thursday) will get underway from 9:00 am AEDT (11:00 am NZDT), while the night sessions (Monday-Thursday) begin from 4:00 pm AEDT (6:00 pm NZDT).

Catch the day session live on Bowls Australia’s Facebook page, while tune in for the night sessions (including Thursday’s finals) on Fox Sports Aus, Sky Sport NZ and Kayo Sports.

Brisbane Pirates

A living legend, Alex Marshall MBE is a proven winner and loves the big stage of the BPL. Since leading the Pirates to victory in BPL08 last November, the Scot has gone on to win his fourth World Indoor Pairs title with Paul Foster (his sixth overall). However, the record six-time World Indoor Singles champion failed to add a seventh Singles crown, falling in the Round of 16 to Englishman Nick Brett.

Kelsey Cottrell has continued to show why she is regarded as one of the best female players in the world, recently winning the Lansdowne District Singles title in what is widely regarded as one of the toughest districts going around. She’s also been in solid form for Club Helensvale in the Queensland Premier League and is set to represent Australia in Singles for the first time since the 2014 Commonwealth Games at the 2019 Asia Pacific Championships.

The ‘silent achiever’ in the Brisbane team, Michael Breen has been a welcomed addition to the Pirates over the past two BPL campaigns. Breen is also showing excellent touch for the Pine Rivers Pirates in the Queensland Premier League at the moment.

Coach Dave Edwards says: “Being the current champions, we know that we have a target on our backs for BPL09 in Wellington. However, the three players are super hyped to go back-to-back. Bring it on!”

Club Helensvale Gold Coast Hawks

Aron Sherriff has enjoyed had a massive year in his new home state of Queensland, bringing home a multitude of club and state titles before capping off the year with selection in the BCiB Australian Jackaroos squad for the Asia Pacific Championships. The 33-year-old collected both the title and MVP when BPL was held at Naenae last April.

Evergreen Nathan Rice has also been included in Australia’s squad for the Asia Pacific Championships and has been a solid performer for the Hawks over the last two BPLs. Along with his two teammates, Rice has been in good form for the star-studded Club Helensvale in the Queensland Premier League, who currently sit just two points off top in Premier Grade.

Gifted with loads of natural talent, Georgia White was impressive on her BPL debut at Club Pine Rivers last November, bringing great energy to the team. A permanent member in Club Helensvale’s Queensland Premier League side, ‘G’ will look to replicate her BPL08 performance in New Zealand.

Coach Matthew Lucas says: “These guys are primed and ready to go for BPL09! The team are keen to improve after narrowly missing the top four last time out. Eyes on the prize and going for two in a row at Naenae.”

Asahi Illawarra Gorillas

Jeremy Henry is one of the more consistent performers on the world stage and will again be representing Australia at the Warilla World Cup in early March. The ‘King of the Carpet’, Henry is the defending World Cup and the current holder of the Gold Nugget and Australian Open Fours crowns. Additionally, just last week he helped Warilla to secure the NSW Five A Side trophy and so will be boarding the plane to Wellington brimming with confidence.

Another player in action at next month’s World Cup will be defending Australian Indoors champion Aaron Teys, who is also the current holder of the Australian Open Pairs crown. The 25-year-old has been rewarded for his consistent form with selection in the Asia Pacific Championships squad, having only previously represented Australia as part of extended squads.

A consistent performer on the world stage with Scotland, Kay Moran recently lead the Oak Flats Wombats in Singles and Triples at the NSW Five A Side, finishing in a second-last place in a tough field. Moran, was also a runner-up in the South Pacific Carnival Pairs with Matt Miles last month, going down to Karen Murphy and Steve Sprod in the final.

Coach Wes Falconer says: “After a disappointing end to a promising start in BPL08, we will be extremely motivated to return to the finals again for this next edition of the BPL.”

Blundstone Melbourne Roys

Aaron Wilson was a part of the Cabramatta side who finished in third-place in the Bowls NSW Five A Side and also a runner-up to Roys and Australian teammate in the Yallourn Classic Singles Final in Victoria last month. Never short of confidence on the green, Wilson will be eagerly anticipating the big stage in Wellington.

Retained in the Australian squad for the Asia Pacific Championships, Barrie Lester has enjoyed a solid period of late, capped off by the aforementioned victory in the Yallourn Classic. The 37-year-old will also take on New Zealand international Ali Forsyth this Friday (February 22) in the Sandbelt Men’s Champion of Champions Singles final as he aims for yet another crack at the Australian Champion of Champions title.

One of Australia’s golden girls from the 2018 Commonwealth Games, Carla Krizanic too retained her spot in the Jackaroos squad and capped off career-defining 2018 with Singles victory in the Australian Championships. The Sunbury product also ended January as Club Champion as she progresses along the road leading to the Australian Champion of Champions. Despite her selection for the Jackaroos, Krizanic was absent from the team who competed in the NSW Five A Side due to illness.

Coach Ian Ewing says: “BPL 09provides the Melbourne Roys the chance to improve on our third-place at Club Pine Rivers. We believe we have a well-balanced side that has the skill and touch of x-factor that can take us into the final night.”

Moama Murray Steamers

The current holder of the Australian Open Men’s Singles crown, Ryan Bester‘s Broadbeach Bulls currently sit in fifth place in Premier Grade in the Queensland Premier League, two points adrift of first. The Canadian himself has always been thereabouts when it has come to silverware, recently climbing to second in the National Rankings following a runner-up finish in the Ballina Summer Singles.

A staple of the Murray Steamers outfit, Michael Walker has long been a consistent performer for his BPL franchise and was integral in the Steamers first-place finish in BPL08, only to be pipped in the final by the Pirates.

Ellen Ryan missed BPL08 on international duty in Hong Kong for Australia and will be welcomed addition to the Steamers in New Zealand. She recently replaced the ill Carla Krizanic in the Australia squad in the Bowls NSW Five A Side, performing strongly.

New Zealand Blackjacks

Shannon McIlroy returns to the Blackjacks having missed out on BPL08. The reigning World Singles champion added another accolade to his already-impressive record late last year when he claimed the World Champion of Champion singles title, the first player ever to hold both crowns at the same time. However, McIlroy was upset in the Singles of the New Zealand Nationals last month, when he squandered a 15-1 lead in the semi-finals to lose to Tony Fabling on the very last bowl.

Having made his BPL debut at Club Pine Rivers, 18-year-old Seamus Curtin certainly didn’t disgrace himself on the big stage alongside his experienced Kiwi counterparts. A 2018 Australian Open Singles semi-finalist, Curtin has continued his steady rise over the past 6-12 months and heads into BPL09 on home soil in decent form on the back of a semi-final showing in last month’s Penguin Classic Pairs.

Jo Edwards joined her counterpart McIlroy in also winning the World Champion of Champions singles title and was arguably one of the best-performed females at BPL08. A decorated star of the sport for a number of years, Edwards’ Pine Rivers Pirates sit third in Premier Grade in the Queensland Premier League, just half a rink point off top.

Blooms The Chemist Perth Suns

With a recent win in the prestigious Doubleview Masters Pairs, Suns spearhead John Slavich has hit terrific form at the right time heading into BPL09. ‘Chevy’, as he is affectionately known, led from the front last time out at Club Pine Rivers when Perth soared from the bottom of the table before the final day of play to finish in fourth place and qualify for finals.

In the newly established Dyenamic Master Series, Shane Knott has shown his worth as one of the most consistent performers in Western Australia. A runner-up placing in the Bassendean Master Triples was more recently followed up with a big win in the coveted Osborne Park Master Singles, putting him in line for a big BPL09.

Kristina Krstic continues to be at the forefront of bowls in WA as well as being part of the BCiB Australian Jackaroos squad. A win in the North Beach Master Pairs solidified her position as the woman to beat in every competition in the state and puts her at the top of her game heading across to New Zealand.

Coach Pieter Harris says: “John, Shane and Kristina were amazing in BPL08 being the first all-Western Australian Perth Suns team to make the finals. All three have continued to perform strongly in the Dyenamic Master Series since then and expectations are very high within the group that BPL09 in Wellington will be a week to remember for the Perth Suns franchise.”

BCiB Sydney Lions

Ray Pearse recently capped off a strong run of form over the past 6-12 months with singles selection in the Australian Jackaroos squad for the Asia Pacific Championships in June. The 34-year-old set the benchmark in 2018 with victories in both the NSW Men’s Singles and Champion of Champions Singles, capping off his year with a maiden national title in the Australian Championships singles. Pearse was also recently crowned Bowls NSW’s Player of the Year and is arguably one of the most in-form players in Australia at the moment.

Having missed BPL08 due to international duty, Ben Twist returns to the BPL on the back of Singles victory in the Summerland Bowls Championships in January. With 3 previous BPL Titles, Twist knows what it takes to lift the silverware and loves the carpet conditions.

A third-place finish in the recent NSW Five A Side with Cabramatta highlights Karen Murphy’s recent exploits, with the three-time BPL winner coming off a deserved sabbatical and raring to go for BPL09. Since returning from a long break, Murphy has enjoyed two early victories in 2019 in the South Pacific Open Pairs crown followed by qualification for the 2019 Australian Indoor Championships in a tough NSW field.

Coach Steve Glasson says: “All three players head into BPL09 with a string of good performances under their belt. We can rely on Ben and Karen to help Ray acclimatise to the very different conditions in Wellington and we hope to build on a strong finish to BPL08. Very impressed with the lineup and looking forward to enjoying some fantastic performances plus some quality entertainment.”