Article: Sam Morton (Bowls New Zealand), images of BPL courtesy of Allan Galbraith & Bowls Australia
Three-time Australian International Bowler of the Year Aron Sherriff showed the world exactly why he’s one of the best players on the planet, leading the Gold Coast Hawks to their inaugural BPL championship and securing a remarkable fourth successive win in as many instalments.
Hosted at the state of the art Naenae bowls complex in Lower Hutt, Wellington – the top four franchises took to the carpet for their shot at the silverware and a slice of the $100,000 winner’s purse.
After a gruelling 14-rounds of qualifying, the Hawks and Brisbane Pirates finished first and second respectively, with the Murray Steamers and Illawarra Gorillas chalking up third and fourth place to remain in contention and advancing through to the Elimination Final.
A determined Gorillas side comprising six-time World Indoor singles champion Jeremy Henry, reigning World Champion of Champion singles exponent Aaron Teys and two-time Commonwealth silver medallist and Scottish international Kay Moran, entered the televised rink dispatching Canadian superstar Ryan Bester and his side of Australian rising star Ellen Ryan and Moama representative Michael Walker in straight sets, 5-2, 7-6 – earning them a place in the preliminary final.
The semi-final showdown saw a mouth-watering contest between two of the world’s best skippers Alex Marshall and Sherriff, with Sherriff making his fourth-successive final after switching franchises from the three-time champion Sydney Lions to the Hawks.
Aptly supported by Nathan Rice and Lynsey Clarke, Sherriff’s Hawks proved unstoppable as they progressed through to the Grand Finale with 9-5, 6-3.
Not ones to be disheartened, Marshall, a five-time Commonwealth gold medallist, recently crowned dual Commonwealth gold medallist Kelsey Cottrell and tournament debutante and decorated Queensland state champion Michael Breen bounced back in epic fashion, taking the first set against the Gorillas, 9-7 – with Marshall playing arguably the bowl of the tournament to propel the Pirates into the final.
Leading the second set 4-3 heading into the final end, Marshall wasted no time in driving the jack clean into the ditch with his bowl following and nestling in an unbeatable position, setting up a well-deserved second shot at the Hawks and consigning the Gorillas to third place to round out an impressive campaign.
Trading bowl for bowl, Sherriff and Marshall treated the crowds to a bowls feast end after end.
An eventual straight sets victory, 5-3, 7-7, likely flattered the Hawks, however, an unprecedented fourth title to Sherriff, albeit with a new franchise, saw the 32-year-old retain the BPL Most Valuable Player tag – an accolade he was also awarded in BPL06.
All focus will now switch to the BPL08 set to be held at Pine Rivers in Brisbane from November 13-16.