The last Sunday of summer marked Day 1 of the Club Championship Singles, the blue riband event of any bowling club anywhere in the universe, and let me tell you, when you play at a club like Manning, every championship draw, Men’s or Women’s, is going to be a Cox Plate field twice to three times over.
Case in point, both draws were headed up by a couple of past & present WA state singles champions and runners-up (David Downey, Dan Trewhella, Hailey Packer, Kristina Krstic and Laura Merz to name a few), alongside other State title winners (Tommy Mitchell, Miles Kemp, Peter Ker & Liz Matthews), a heap of past club champions and/or Premier League players, Division 1 and Division 2 bowlers, up against the comparative Satanic ritual victims that are Division 3, 4 and 5 bowlers, a category I firmly belong in.
On another note, a few ‘colourful’ life members usually run a book in the lead-up to the event, which is how I heard of the epic tale that when Steve Withers (The trainer-joint owner of Tommy Shelby) first joined the club from Queensland in 2012-13, life member John The Bookmaker (Name protected for legal reasons) put him at double figures to win the Men’s Singles title, potentially not realising that Steve had represented Queensland at state level…
Steve wound up backing himself and took the entire pool 6 times over.
Classic greyhound trainer.
The draw for the Men’s Singles worked out to be 14 sections of 3 players, although only 13 sections played due to Blake Butler being unavailable, with the format being 4 bowls each and first to 21 shots, and I was drawn in Section 13, against my old sparring partner Keith of the Manning Darts (via the village of Wimbledon), who smacked me 15-3 in the 2 Bowl Singles back in September, and Sir Robert Bandy of Windsor, aka Bobby, and coincidentally Keith and Bob have both played Division 1 this season, and they’re in the same Division 2 side, with Bob being a very accomplished skip himself.
It’s fair to say that playing against two gents who were two divisions above me, and being a Novice bowler (A 1st or 2nd year pennant bowler), I was always travelling up Crap Creek without a canoe, but despite being the rank outsider of the group, I did have one thing in my favour – We were one of the two sections to get put on the Synthetic Green (Green C), instead of getting the dreaded A Green, which is notorious for running slow, and it is the green that Keith and Bob play on regularly.
Although, the disadvantage was that it was a boiling 34 degrees, and hot weather turns Synthetic greens (With a concrete base) into a heat sink.
So first up I played Keith, and when we stepped out at 9:30am it started blowing a very solid Easterly (30-35 km/h) that kicked up at any given moment, which meant getting your line right was a challenge within a challenge, and it showed when I struggled to land a shot early on, as Keith held all 4 shots on the opening end and raced out to a 12-0 lead after 5 ends, and it looked like a repeat of the September result was on.
For some reason, the wind always seemed to kick up when Keith made his traditional blowing noises after one of us bowled…. The man has more than a few tricks up his sleeve.
After 8 ends Keith led 15-4, which was right around the time something subconsciously clicked in my head and I started bowling much more consistently, which showed when I held 4 on the 8th end and doubled my score – I’ll never know exactly what caused that ‘flick of the switch’, but maybe it was because I noticed Mr Downey was playing on the other Synthetic rink and I randomly tried copying his motion, to varying degrees of success.
Despite Keith getting a couple of crucial 1s to move the score to 17-9, I got as close as I’d been all day when I held a 3 and a 1 to get the score to 17-13 after 14 ends, but that would be all from my end, as Keith got the mat back when he got the hold on the last bowl of the 15th End to make it 18-13, then on the final end, he got a narrow measure for 3rd shot, and that was game, set and match 21-13.
Although, Keith did tell me he was fortunate to get that huge start, otherwise it might’ve been a completely different story.
Knowing I was a nigh-on certainty to get knocked out due to For/Against, I took on Bob after a 10 minute break, and after a good ending to the game against Keith, I’d got my eye in and started consistently landing shots in the head, which forced Bob to go for a couple of successful drives to take the jack out the back, and that was just the start of a roller-coaster contest, with the score fluctuating from 4-0 to Bob, to 5-4 my way, then Bob got back ahead 9-5 after 9, before I came back again with a few more holds, including a 3, to get ahead 11-10 after 14 ends.
As the momentum and the lead continued to change over the next 5 ends, Bob led 15-14 after 19 ends, but I put the blowtorch on him during the 20th End when I got 3 bowls in the head (One of them a resting toucher), Bob couldn’t get anything closer, and the wind picked up right as he attempted to kill the head with his last bowl, and the consequence was he missed the lot, and I popped my last bowl into the count to take all 4 shots, and the lead 18-15 after 20 ends.
After realising I was potentially 1 end from a huge victory, it’s fair to say I completely crapped myself, akin to Ash Barty when she got broken while serving for the Wimbledon final last year, and Bob got me on the last bowl of the 21st End, then he held 3 on the 22nd after getting 2nd and 3rd shot by a bee’s diaphragm, to retake the lead 19-18, and I was potentially 1 bad end from defeat, which for me is very easy to achieve.
But there were still two more twists in this tale, as the 23rd End saw the both of us land shot after shot into the head, but Bob crucially missed on his last bowl when I had shot, and with the last bowl, I somehow delivered an absolutely clutch bowl to get the 2nd shot, reclaiming the lead 20-19, which did absolutely nothing to calm my nerves.
However, in what turned out to be the last end, I led off by putting my first shot half a foot from the jack, then I got another, then I put a blocker in that worked perfectly when Bob bowled straight into it, leaving him with 1 bowl to save himself, so I put in a back bowl just incase he did succeed in a drive, and as time stood still for 10 seconds, Bob’s drive cut under the jack, missed a wick off my bowls and went straight through the head, and thus, I’d won 21-19, ending my debut Championship Singles with a mighty upset win, in a game that lasted just shy of 2 hours.
As Darryl Kerrigan once said:
There you go, a “****in’ Novice!” as a disbelieving Bob put it, knocked off a 2nd Division skip, although I think the best compliment I got from Bob was when he said I genuinely deserved to win, and to me, that’s something, because if we’d played that game before Pennants season, I’d have lost somewhere in the range of 21-4.
Obviously I couldn’t advance due to my total shots being 34 and -6 on For/Against, but as it happened, Bob (-2) wasn’t knocked out either, as we worked out that in the event of him defeating Keith and the 3 of us being on 3 points, he would have to win by no fewer than 6 shots to get ahead on Total Shots + variance.
As it transpired, Bob got out to a fast start and led 5-0 after 3 ends, then led 7-2 after 6, before Keith came back to grab the lead 8-7, but showcasing why he’s the Skip in 2nd Division, Bob blew Keith out of the water in 4 devastating ends:
A perfect 4 on the 10th End to lead 11-8, which seemed to be a mental chair shot that Keith couldn’t quite recover from.
A 2 on the 11th End to make it 13-8
A 3 on the 12th End to make it 16-8
And a 1 on the 13th End to make it 17-8.
Keith did hold a hat-trick of 1s to make it 17-11, but Bob held 2 on the 17th to make it 19-11, and he put the game and Section 14 to bed on the 18th End by getting the measure for 2nd shot.
Given there were games still going on right up to 4pm, most notably the Battle of the Bowling Arms between Bob The Builder and Phil Gillespie, which BTB won 21-19:
And the humdinger between Maurice and Premier League best & fairest Miles (Miles won 21-18) on A Green, with a vocal peanut gallery cheering on big Maurie to spring a huge upset that never came:
The plan to start the Post Sectional round on Sunday was shelved, and with only 13 sections being played, 3 players got a bye through to the Quarter Finals (Adrian, Miles and Brett), and the other 10 will go through the Alignment Round, which will take place no later than the 13th of March, when the Final is due to be played.
Still, I think Bob winning our section was akin to drinking a poisoned chalice, because he’ll have to go up against the reigning WA State Singles champion:
So that was my part in the Club Championships done and dusted, and outside of 6 ends on Sunday morning, I was thrilled with the way I played, and the lucky last event for me this season is due to be the Novice Singles Championship, which is also on the 13th, and it’s the one event I’ve been targeting for pretty much the entire season.
Now, I’m off to save the Tuesday Division 4 Red Ladies from the Wooden Spoon, and the 5 White Thursday Men from getting bloody well relegated to Division 6.
Categories: Lawn Bowls