Rewind the clock to this time last year, and a certain Seamus Curtin was taking to the Gold Coast greens in his breakout performance, losing to the eventual winner Ryan Bester in the Men’s Singles of the Australian Open and writing his name into the national selector’s books.
Curtin, among dozens of other Kiwi hopes, have once again thrown their names into the line-up in a bid to claim their stake and honour of the largest and richest open bowls event on the planet, as the Australian Open remains primed and ready to roll.
Now in its 15th year, the Bowls Australia showpiece event has grown in stature year on year, appropriately evident from this year’s figures, with a staggering 2600 entrants from all corners of the world plying their trade on the Gold Coast greens, resulting in a record turnout since its inception.
Some of the world’s best exponents of the game will be on display, including international representatives from England, Scotland, United States, Canada, South Africa, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, Philippines and India – of course mixing it with the best of the best from both Australia and New Zealand on trans-tasman soil.
Adding to the spice of the 14-day contest, several nations competing in the upcoming 2019 Asia Pacific Championships have signalled the event as an opportunity to fine tune where they’re at and better familiarise and acclimatise to their surroundings.
New Zealander hopefuls looking to push their mark will include Blackjacks Gary Lawson, Jamie Hill and Ali Forsyth, while fellow high performance and development squad members such as Sheldon Bagrie-Howley, Caleb Hope, Keanu Darby and reigning national men’s singles champion Taylor Horn will also be aiming to put forward a strong showing – potentially causing some significant upsets along the way.
Though with a swag of former winners, Commonwealth Games medalists and international powerhouses in attendance, all disciplines will provide a spectacle like no other – truly bringing together the sport’s greatest present day competitors.
Ones to watch in the men’s singles will include the trophy hungry Gary Kelly of Northern Ireland, who since relocating to Australia earlier this year has won virtually everything he has lined up for, reigning Commonwealth men’s champion Aaron Wilson and the ever-consistent Jackaroo Ray Pease, while the women’s singles will likely come down to a pick of the Aussies from last year’s winner Rebecca Van Asch, former champion Kelsey Cottrell, champion skipper Chloe Stewart and the irrepressible Ellen Ryan to name only a few – though international spoils could come from the likes of Malaysia’s Siti Zalina Ahmad and last year’s beaten semi-finalist Lisa Prideaux of New Zealand, or equally perhaps, Prideaux’s fellow squad member, the in-form Katelyn Inch – presently dominating on the Queensland greens.
A quick glance across the field shows more than 100 New Zealand-based combined entrants for the men’s and women’s singles, with a dozen representatives also lining-up in the Multi-Disability Open Singles and Pairs disciplines and several eyeing up the Over-60s Men’s and Women’s Pairs’ silverware.
The 14-day event, to be held at 13 host venues across the state, gets underway on Saturday, June 1 with the finals culminating at the Broadbeach Bowls Club from June 12 onwards.
The Australian Open boasts a grand prize pool of more than $250,000 over 14 disciplines, and has proven to be a launching pad for many international careers, past, present and undoubtedly, future.
Published with permission from Bowls New Zealand