More than 2,000 bowlers descended on the Gold Coast for the world’s most lucrative open bowls event. The $250,000 Australian Open showcased 13 clubs across the region, from Coolangatta in the south to Paradise Point in the north, over the 14 days of competition from June 9 to 22, as bowlers from across the globe contested the sport’s richest open titles.
The return of annual competition to the GC boasts added impetus this year, marking the first time a Commonwealth Games improved venue staged a major national competition.
Broadbeach Bowls Club, which received a $4 million development for the Games courtesy of the Queensland Government and City of Gold Coast, was once again the primary venue for the Open and featured the final two days of action, inclusive of a live SBS and Fox Sports broadcast of four finals across the penultimate and final days.
The completely open-to-enter event featured a randomised draw with no seedings in either sectional or knockout play, paving the way for club-level bowlers to play against the best in the world.
On the greens, competition was hotly contested across the disciplines this year with a decorated field, many of whom were fresh off Commonwealth Games heroics at the event’s centrepiece venue, Broadbeach Bowls Club.
There were a number of standout performances at this year’s Australian Open, one of the highlights of the Open took place in the Women’s singles competition which came to a thrilling conclusion.
Fine form for Van Asch
Among those who went through to the Round of 128 Women’s Singles knockouts were dual-Commonwealth Games gold medallists Natasha Scott and Rebecca van Asch, as well as 2017 Under-18 champion Jessica Srisamruaybai and past Triples winner Samantha Shannahan.
The blue-ribbon women’s singles competition was then whittled down to just 32 competitors, and after a further three sessions of action the names of the semi-finalists had been decided.
Among the names to book a berth were Rebecca van Asch, Ellen Ryan, Kristina Krstic and Broadbeach local Bolivia Millerick.
However, Van Asch and West Australian young gun Kristic were left standing following the semi-final clash.
The final saw Van Asch given her first Australian Open singles crown following a nail-biting 21-19 victory over Krstic in the decider.
The result continued with a dream run for the Tasmanian, following two gold medals at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the same Broadbeach venue.
Also victorious on the SBS and Fox Sports TV rink was the pairing of Chris Herden and Carl Healey, whose giant-killing run continued with a comprehensive 21-10 victory over Harley McDonald and Aaron Teys in an all New South Wales final affair.
En-route to the final, the Herden/Healey combination secured the scalps of Pearse/Henry, Queenslanders Jayden Christie and Aron Sherriff and Jamie Anderson and Ryan Bester in the knockout stages, further rubber-stamping their credentials as Men’s Pairs champions.
In the Women’s Pairs competition, the mother-daughter combination of Gayle and Brooke Edwards secured one of the most dramatic wins of the tournament.
Gayle produced an incredible shot in the last end of the final to flip the match on its head and secure the Women’s Pairs crown for the Altona-based pair.
“It was fantastic, Brooke played brilliantly all day, she led well all day,” Gayle Edwards said.
“I tried to play well to back her up and we’ve got over the line by one shot, it was a hard game and a hard pace but we got there.”
The Men’s Fours final game proved to be one of crowd favourites with two all-star teams going head-to-head, last year’s fours champs Ryan Burnett and Scottish superstar Alex Marshall returned to Broadbeach with the help of Helensvale’s Nathan Rice and Irish heavyweight Jeremy Henry.
Meeting them in the final was another powerhouse team consisting of Helensvale young gun Jayden Christie, Comm Games gold medallist Josh Thornton, Victorian legend Barrie Lester and the formidable Aron Sherriff.
Neither team could open up a serious lead and by end 15 the teams were separated by just one shot with Marshall’s team-leading 11-10 and holding two.
The crowd held their breath as Sherriff played his last bowl which just missed its mark allowing Marshall and Burnett to pick up their second fours title in as many years with a 13-10 victory.
“To win another Aussie Open Fours it’s absolutely fantastic and the guys have been fabulous to play with for the last week,” Marshall said.
Consistency is key
The Women’s Fours proved to be equally thrilling with Ling Qu, Leeane Poulson, Diane Strawbridge and Kawana’s Marilyn Emerton taking on Carmen Anderson’s team of Brittany Wiley (Binjour), Ann Maree Peart (Tweed Heads) and Sarah Boddington.
Emerton’s team were in sensational form in the final and concluded their campaign with a comfortable victory over the might of Norfolk Island representative Anderson and her star-studded side, 17-9.
Poulson, Qu and Strawbridge undoubtedly proved the difference in the match-up, consistently outperforming their counterparts in the early stages, though the vast experience of Emerton proved vital as her side weathered a storm, with Anderson and Co clawing back the scores within two shots with four ends to play.
However, consistency won out on the night, with Emerton’s side scoring a four on the penultimate end to force Anderson’s quartet to chase a full count – though to no avail, as Anderson conceded acknowledging the task was a tall order against a four who had proven superior all evening – gifting Emerton and her team the $10,000 winner’s cheque.
“It doesn’t get much better than that, this really is a dream come true,” Emerton said.
“All I wanted to do was take away any of the danger, Carmen can play awesome shots and if you leave something uncovered she’s going to take advantage so we just needed to get a couple in the head and then cover everything.”
Comm Games hero claims another victory
Burleigh Heads bowler and Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Jake Fehlberg, took on fellow Queenslander John Vance (Tamborine Mountain) in the final, Fehlberg pulled off a classy finish to his campaign and spared no prisoners defeating Vance 21-4 to pick up his second Australian Open Vision-Impaired singles title in style.
The singles title chalked up Fehlberg’s collection of Australian Open titles to four, following his back-to-back wins of the 2016 and 2017 Vision-Impaired Pairs title and his win of the 2017 Vision-Impaired Singles title.
“It felt really good to win again and defend my title, I think I played well throughout the competition despite a scare in the sectional rounds following my loss to Tin Can Bay’s Bill O’Rourke,” Fehlberg said.
“I think winning the Comm Games gold medal has really given me confidence in my game to know that I can pull off the shots when I need to and know that the game is never truly over.
“I was really pleased with my performance in the Open singles too as I won my section and made it into the first stage of the knockout rounds.
“I’d like to thank my coach Ron Alexander, my dad and director Grant Fehlberg and my sponsor Aero for helping me get to where I am.”
Ripper of a finish
Young gun Jono Davis earned an incredible fourth Under-18 Boys’ crown with a nail-biting 21-20 finish over fellow rising star Josh Studham.
“I just knew I had to get shot on that last end and I got three which was a bonus, Josh played well but I just managed to get over the line,” Davis said.
“We have had some great battles over the years, so hopefully I’ll get to see him again at the next one.”
*Runners-up in brackets*
1. Men’s Singles -Ryan Bester (Sean Baker)
2. Women’s Singles -Rebecca Van Asch (Kristina Krstic)
3. Men’s Pairs – Chris Herden & Carl Healey (Harley McDonald & Aaron Teys)
4. Women’s Pairs – Gayle & Brooke Edwards (Cheryl Chan & Esther Yu)
5. Men’s Fours -Ryan Burnett / Nathan Rice / Jeremy Henry / Alex Marshall (Jayden Christie / Josh Thornton / Barrie Lester / Aron Sherriff)
6. Women’s Fours – Ling Qu / Leeane Poulson / Diane Strawbridge / Marilyn Emerton (Brittaney Wiley / Ann Maree Peart / Sarah Boddington / Carmen Anderson)
7. Under-18 Boy’s Singles -Jono Davis (Josh Studham)
8. Under-18 Girls’ Singles -Jessie Cottell (Rebecca Rixon)
9. Over-60’s Men’s Pairs -Sam Laguzza & Rowan Brassey (Paul Davis & Peter McBrierty)
10. Over-60’s Women’s Pairs – Clare Kelly & Bronwyn McPherson (Adele Pershouse & Christina Pavlov)
11. Multi-Disability Open Singles – Nathan Appleton (Josh Barry)
12. Multi-Disability Pairs – Nathan Appleton & Josh Barry (Phillip Plackett & Ron Mowday)
13. Vision-Impaired Singles – Jake Felberg (John Vance)