Lawn Bowls

Made my first Club Championship Final at Manning today

Yes, it’s slightly unbelievable given my chequered history, but I absolutely was a Men’s Triples finalist with Mark Ellis (skip) and Neil Edwards (second)… and I say finalist because the Final didn’t end well for us

Left to Right: Mark, JT and Neil, and in the background is Macca having a drink

Section Game 1: defeated Keith Godfrey/Joe Angel/Phil Herbert 20-6

Section Game 2: defeated Matt Hoskin/Wayne Heldt/Graham O’Brien 15-12

Section Game 3: defeated Dan Hoyne/Peter Jones/James Jackson 15-10

Semi Final: defeated Graeme Watson/Shane Adams (sub)/Terry Norrish 16-12

Final: lost to Adam Macpherson/Miles Kemp (sub)/Blake Butler 9-18

For context to this story, Neil Edwards & Mark Ellis, two of Manning’s resident English expats, used to play in the Men’s Triples with Matty Allen, although Matty moved to Kardinya this season and is now playing as a Premier League skip (An offer he couldn’t refuse), so Neil & Mark offered me a spot in their team way back in early August… Not knowing if I would get a team in the ensuing 3 months, I immediately said yes.

After getting through our section last Sunday with some quality team bowls, the Anglo-Australian trio of JT, ‘Il Capitano’ Neil Edwards and Mark Ellis were into the semifinals of Manning Men’s Triples against the Mukinbudin Mob of Terry Norrish, Graeme Watson and Paul Smith, who knocked out the defending champions Ron Ker, Peter Ker and Tommy Mitchell in the sectional, although somewhat fortunately for us was that Smithy, who plays as a Premier League second, wasn’t available to play due to a birthday back in Mukka, so Norro and Watto called up Shane Adams to fill the void, and due to rules about substitutes in Club Championships, Norro (Who plays as a Skip in Division 2 White) would have to play as Skip against Mark, which on paper gave us a slight advantage, but to don the Captain Obvious cape, bowls isn’t played on paper.

In the Semi Final, the first 2/3rds of my game could be best described as below average due to nerves, caused by the fact I’d never gone this far in a serious club event in my life, and the previous day I’d been well below my own expectations against Leeming (With Mark alongside me playing Third) as we lost our rink and the aggregate, but somewhat fortunately for myself and the team was that despite my struggles, we were only down 9-11 after 12 ends (Out of 18) thanks to Neil and Mark managing to keeping my head above water, so it wasn’t panic stations just yet.

We got the mat back after the 13th end to make it 10-11, and based on a successful trick we pulled against Leeming on Saturday, Mark requested I bring the mat up and shorten the ends, and that was the key to getting me to give the team something slightly resembling average bowls, and it worked once again, because we held the next 3 ends to lead 13-11 with 3 to play, Shane managed to deny us a huge hold on the 16th to make it 13-12, and with the heat on, Neil drew shot on the 17th to make it 14-12 with the final end to play…

And on that final end, I managed to get one jack high a metre away, while bowl after bowl wound up falling at least a metre short, meaning we dodged a huge bullet and were only 1 shot down going into the skip’s bowls, taking the pressure off Mark, and with 2 back bowls and a gap the size of the Panama Canal to play with, the experienced Premier League lead dropped both his bowls into the head, withstood Norro’s drives, and sealed the win 16-12.

So for the first time in my life, I was into a meaningful bowls Club Championship final, and if you don’t count those Jack Attack finals I played in a few years ago, the last time I was in a serious sporting final of any kind was an Under 15s Sunday tennis pennants final when I was playing across the fence at Manning Tennis Club back in 2012…

We lost that final at Scarborough on sets won.

When it came to opposition, we would’ve been taking on the team of Adam Macpherson/Jaxon Butler/Blake Butler (No relation), but Jaxon had gone to Fiji for a family birthday on Friday, so Blake called up Premier League teammate Miles Kemp to play as a sub and make a damn good team even stronger…

Although, even they were in serious trouble against Brett Adams, Greg Hogg & Allan Taylor, as the Taylor trio got out to an early 7-0 lead, but Blake’s trio came back to lead 15-11 after 12, only to fall behind 16-15 with 2 ends to play, but a big hold made it 16-16 and set up a sudden death 18th end.

Just when it looked like Taylor had the game won thanks to 2 superb bowls by Brett & Greg, Blake cut one bowl out then killed the end, Brett then had shot again on the replayed end, only for Blake’s eyes to light up as he got the chance to drive, sending the jack flying out the back, his next bowl was a screamer that rested stone dead on the jack, and Allan unfortunately hit his short bowl right as he was tracking to make contact, thus giving Blake’s team the win 18-16.

The original 18th end, before Blake loaded up the cannon and killed the head

After a meal break we got the final underway just after 12 o’clock, and it was a reasonably competitive opening couple of ends, as Blake & Mark both played some quality skip’s bowls to cut out our good work, but the decisive moment of the game came on the 5th end, as Blake’s team led 4-1, but we were holding 2 either side of the jack with Blake having 1 bowl left…

Next thing you know, Blake went straight up the guts, trailed the jack back where Kempy and Macca had gone several feet through to go from 2 down to 4 up, but Mark had a bowl to cut down the damage or even draw shot, considering there was 2 metres of room between 2nd shot and the ditch, but he left his bowl well short and we dropped a cheap 4.

Instead of being 3-4 or even 1-5 down on the scoreboard, we were 1-8 down, then in the next 2 ends Mark bowled 2 fantastic shots, but both times he found holes where there weren’t any, a sign that it simply wasn’t our day, and as a consequence we dropped another pair of 2s and went behind 12-1 after 7 ends.

It is at this belated point that I mention Blake Butler, among his many achievements in the game (Many of them with Manning), is a former WA State Singles champion (2019), was runner-up in 2020, and was also a runner-up in the NSW State Singles in 2009 when he was a 17-year-old at Terrigal.

One of the best players going around, full stop.

But after those catastrophic ends, our terrified trio hung in and started getting a few shots to fall our way, I played much better than I did in the Semi, Mark and Blake each killed an end, although without a big hold of 4 or 5 shots the comeback was never a serious prospect, which was caused by a combination of us being too inconsistent (We’d have 1 good bowl in the head and the other finishing 1-2 metres short), and one of Macca, Kempy or Blake just playing the better bowls and either getting shot or cutting our holds right down.

Case in point, our biggest hold all game was 2 shots – Simply not enough when you’re up against such quality opposition.

So the score was 17-9 after 16 ends, and needing a 2 to send the game to an 18th end, Macca was holding shot with Neil in close proximity and a whole nest of catchers waiting behind, and Mark simply had to find a way to either hit the holder or drag the jack back on the wide hand, which wasn’t easy with the wind dropping dead every 2 seconds, and cutting a long story short, Mark had 2 runs at the head and was slightly wide both times, meaning Blake didn’t have to put his final bowl down, because the game was done 18-9.

Kempy, Macca and Blake

Yes, ’twas a great run for myself, Neil and Mark, but sadly we ran into the champion team & won’t be getting our names on the honour board in 2 years when AJ Heal gets around to it…

But we will feature on Sue Hogg’s slideshow at the club, and as an added bonus, I finally got a few photos of myself bowling, thanks to Richard ‘Half’ Price getting out of isolation in time to watch the game:

Photo by Richard Price

Fancy that, I think I put both of those bowls short of the head.

And, life did even itself out for Mark and Neil, given England went on to win the T20 World Cup Final.

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