State warfare to ignite in Bendigo
Australia’s premier state-versus-state competition is poised for a powder keg start today in an area widely regarded as one of the nation’s strongest bowls regions, the City of Greater Bendigo.
The nation’s finest bowlers, including more than a handful of reigning World Championships and Commonwealth Games gold medallists, will converge on the idyllic town as interstate warfare ignites for the Australian Sides Championships.
The time-honoured tournament, which dates back to 1959 in the men’s competition and 1979 in the women’s event, will showcase each and every state and territory pitted against each other over four grueling days, featuring three rinks of four players in each gender.
Defending men’s champion state Queensland has held dominance over the event in recent memory, clinching the coveted Alley Shield five times in the past seven years, including a three-peat from 2008 to 2010, but the competition is expected to tighten dramatically this year, opening the door for a swath of hungry challengers to lay claim on the war chest.
The expectation that a new contender will utilise this year’s event as a launching pad is in no small part owed to the recent switching of state guernseys by one of the sport’s most revered athletes.
Former world number one and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Mark Casey, who moved from Queensland powerhouse Club Helensvale to NSW juggernaut St John’s Park just prior to his 2012 World Championships gold medal victory in Adelaide last December, is a huge coup for the Blues’ campaign.
Queensland will also go in without one of its other heavy hitting skips this year, with Casey’s Jackaroos world champion teammate Brett Wilkie, who last year skipped the best performed rink, sidelined from the event due to the expected birth his fifth child.
It isn’t all doom and gloom for the Maroons contingent however, with the re-inclusion of one of the biggest names the sport has to offer, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Kelvin Kerkow OAM, back in the mix after two years absence, while 18 year-old young-gun Sean Ingham has also earned the privilege of a senior debut after a scintillating season on the junior stage.
Also fancying their chances on their home turf will be the Big V, who is ripe to launch their attack after last lifting the shield aloft in 2002.
Big name inclusions for the Victorian outfit include Scottish world champion Graeme Archer, who powered past South Australia’s Wayne Reudiger, Wilkie and Casey in last year’s gold medal final at the World Championships, and former Australian representative Todd Simmons.
Standing in the Blues, Maroons and Big V’s way, however, is the best of the best from across the nation, with each side capable of producing a performance to remember and savour.
Staged from April 29 to May 2 at the Bendigo Bowls Club, each state and territory will meet each other over seven rounds with play commencing at 9.00am daily with free admission.