Willis overjoyed at Ryan’s Commonwealth gold

by Val Febbo

Bowls Australia (BA) National Coach Gary Willis is bursting with pride following Jackaroo Ellen Ryan becoming the first Australian to win a Commonwealth Games gold on UK soil, and the first female from the country to take home the women’s singles title.

The Goulburn native clawed back from a 9-2 deficit against Guernsey’s Lucy Beere in the final to take the match 21-17 and cement her name among bowls legends past and present.

Speaking on BA’s Without Bias program, Willis spoke of Ryan’s personality and how much it means to see her and her family achieve success.

“It was just amazing, they say great things happen to great people and she is certainly one of those,” Willis said.

“It was just such a special moment for her family, her mum and dad have supported her and taken her around from a very young age over the years and got her through the system early in her career.

“To get to that point with her mum in the stands watching on, they must have been so proud as we were.”

Throughout the tight tussle of the decider, nerves would have been on a rollercoaster as momentum swung towards both combatants.

“I wasn’t feeling too well at all, I would’ve hated to see a heart rate monitor plugged into me at that time, but she’s a very tenacious character so I knew that there would always be a comeback,” he said.

“Lucy Beere was playing so well and I thought it was going to be a tough ask but she did remarkably well to fight back and obviously tactically she made some good decisions and the rest is history.

“It was just a great performance all round.”

For the coach, it is Ryan’s tenacity and determination that gave him the utmost confidence in a comeback, as she never believes the contest is over.

“I think it’s just her character, she’s got a really solid technique which puts her in good stead and just her will to win and a big ticker as they say,” Willis said.

“She’s very motivated and a very determined person so you always know she’s got it in her and she’s always going to come back no matter what the situation is.

“So as nervous as I was and the rest of us were, it was one of those moments where you thought it would happen at some stage.”

Willis adores Ryan’s personality, and how she has remained the same throughout her journey, even recounting a story when his then 17-year-old pupil stole his shoes on an overseas tour.

“It’s amazing the country kid from Goulburn, started at a very young age so I’ve known Ellen for a long time through the juniors with New South Wales,” he said.

“She’s never been any different, she’s never changed as a person, she’s just always been that same country kid to me.

“There was one stage there where I put my head in my hands before the last bowl was played and remembered back to a time when I took her over to Samoa for the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2015 and on that tour she got hold of my shoes and tied them to the ceiling fan.

“I thought of that moment and that country kid that loves a laugh and a bit of fun, but she’s a fierce competitor and just remarkable to watch.”