Gearing up for the 15th Australian Open

by Domenic Favata

The Australian Open is back on the Gold Coast for the fifth consecutive year, with the world’s biggest open bowls festival set to light up the sunshine state across 13 venues from Coolangatta to Paradise Point.

A record of more than 2,600 bowlers from across Australia and around the world will take part in the completely open-to-enter event with no qualifying, including a randomised draw with no seedings in either sectional or knockout play.

This is where the romance of the Australian Open comes to the fore, with the distinct possibility for your average club bowler to come up against a Commonwealth Games gold medalist, a remarkable facet of the sport.

Sectional rounds will be played across the 14 disciplines initially, with leaders progressing through to the knockout stages.

In 2019, the following disciplines will be contested:

Open Singles (Men’s & Women’s), Open Pairs (Men’s & Women’s), Open Fours (Men’s & Women’s), Over-60 Pairs (Men’s & Women’s), Under-18 Singles (Boys’ & Girls’), Multi-Disability Open Singles, Vision-Impaired Open Singles & Pairs, and Multi-Disability Open Pairs

Following on the trend from the event’s previous instalments on the Gold Coast, a true festival atmosphere will be in place for the fortnight, with live events and the fan-favourite ‘Mega Bowl’ to run twice throughout the tournament from 6pm on May 31 and June 8 at Broadbeach Bowls Club.

For viewers at home, Fox Sports and SBS will broadcast the men’s and women’s singles and pairs finals on June 13 and 14 respectively from 11:30am to 4:00pm nationwide.

You’ll also be able to watch up to three matches live daily throughout the entire event via Rinkside Live, Bowls Australia’s streaming offering delivered to you on Facebook.

On the greens and competition will be hot across the disciplines this year with a decorated field of international stars also set to take part, many of whom who will be taking part in the Asia Pacific Championships to be held across Broadbeach, Club Helensvale and Musgrave Hill shortly after this event.

As a result, 2019 will see a record number of international bowlers take part in the event, with bowlers journeying to Australia from the likes of England, Scotland, United States, Canada, New Zealand, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Philippines and India.

Last year’s singles champions Ryan Bester (Canada) and Rebecca Van Asch (Australia) have shown no signs of slowing down, with both having gone on to collect further silverware following their heroics at Broadbeach in June last year.

Van Asch recently returned to competitive bowls following a break from the game for the birth of her first child, collecting a bronze medal at the 2019 World Cup in Warilla.

The Australian headlines a strong women’s field, with a number of her BCiB Australian Jackaroos teammates in Kelsey Cottrell, Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott, Ellen Ryan, Chloe Stewart, Karen Murphy, Lynsey Clarke and last year’s runner-up, Kristina Krstic, all contenders in their own right to take out the singles crown.

Add to those names the international threats of Malaysia’s Siti Zalina Ahmad, New Zealand’s Lisa Prideaux and Canada’s Kelly McKerihen, and you’d be a brave person to tip the women’s winner.

Similarly, the men’s singles field is loaded with talent, with Bester no doubt the warm-favourite to defend his title on his home turf.

Last year’s runner-up Sean Baker will be one to watch again, with the Queenslander continuing to be among the silverware list at events across the country, while a host of BCiB Australian Jackaroos will be eager to hit their straps before the Asia Pacific Championships.

Aron Sherriff, Aaron Teys, Nathan Rice and Barrie Lester have all collected gold medals in some format or another in this event, while Ray Pearse, the man to next lead Australia’s singles charge, is arguably the form male singles competitor in the country with an impressive record of late.