“Late starter” can still keep youngsters at bay

by admin

A generation of elite young athletes have turned the perception of bowls on its head, as Steele Taylor reports for the Sunshine Coast Daily.

Paul O’Brien might be mixing it with some of the best lawn bowlers in the country but don”(TM)t expect the 48-year-old from Bokarina to be putting his hand up for representative selection.

“I’m way too old to be considered for anything like that unfortunately,” he said.

“Bowls really is a young person’s sport now. The average age of the Australian lawn bowls team is younger than the Australian cricket team.”

Indeed, long gone are the days when the sport was perceived by some as a pastime for retirees.

A generation of newcomers, including the likes of the Coast’s Kelsey Cottrell, have helped change the face of the game during the past 10-15 years, making it highly competitive among Generation Y.

“It’s certainly changed. There”(TM)s no more white clothes. It’s all coloured clothes and coloured bowls,” O’Brien said.

“It brightens the sport up a bit and takes that image away of being the old person”(TM)s game.”

O’Brien himself used to see it like that.

It was one of the reasons he didn’t start competing until he was 40.

“My dad used to play but I used to be the typical person and I said, “Who wants to play that. It’s an old person’s game.”

So O’Brien played cricket until the rigours of wielding the willow caught up with him and instead he took up an unlikely opportunity to take to the greens.

“I owned a Ray White Real Estate business in Mornington and the bowls club bloke came in and said he was looking for sponsorship for a day,” he said.

“I gave him 50 dollars or something and he said, “Why don’t you come down and have a go”. I thought it couldn’t hurt so I had a go and I was hooked.”

O’Brien moved to the Sunshine Coast a year later and has since established himself as one of Queensland’s premier bowlers.

The Broadbeach and Kawana club member, who now runs Ray White Beerwah, has an affinity with the state championships.

He won the state triples title in 2011, with Ben Savva and Sean Ingham, and won the state fours crown in 2012 with Savva, Jamie Smith and Ryan Bester.

Then last week, he and Savva won the state pairs title at Tewantin-Noosa.

Their seven-match sequence culminated with a thrilling win over Australian representative, Sean Baker, and Ingham 17-15 in the final.

Next year, O’Brien just needs to win the singles to complete a clean sweep of state titles

“I went into the singles this year and got into the last 16 but got beaten by the eventual winner (Australian representative Brett Wilkie). If I’d have got over him I might have had a chance,” he said.

“I’ll certainly go in it next year and will try my best,” he said.
Caption: Paul O’Brien shows the style that has made him one of Queensland’s top bowlers. Image courtesy of Bowls Queensland.