IMAGE | Bowls Australia
The Australian Bowls Team will be hopeful of ending a 4394-day gold medal drought when the first bowl of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games is rolled down at Broadbeach Bowls Club on April 5.
By Aidan Davis
Despite being arguably the most dominant nation on the world stage in recent memory, the Australian Jackaroos have endured a long spell without Games glory; more than 12 years to be precise.
The man who orchestrated the contingent’s last hurrah, Kelvin Kerkow OAM, captured the hearts of the nation when he secured the coveted blue-ribbon men’s singles golden medallion on home soil at Melbourne in 2006, before promptly ripping of his shirt and being chaired around the green on the shoulders of his teammates while ACDC’s “It’s a long way to the top” whipped the parochial crowd into a frenzy.
While that moment has undoubtedly been forever etched into the sport’s annals, the 17-strong team contesting this year’s multi-sport event are determined to update the records with some new feats, and Kerkow is even on-side to make sure that happens.
Kerkow is part of the Selection and Coaching teams, which are spearheaded by his close friend and former world world number one, National Coach Steve Glasson OAM, who have chosen and prepared a squad that is a realistic prospect of medalling in all 10 disciplines contested this Games.
The team’s only Games gold medallist, Karen Murphy, who prevailed in the women’s pairs as a teammate of Kerkow’s back in 2006, is set to notch up a record-breaking fifth Games appearance and is unquestionably the pre-tournament favourite in the showpiece women’s singles, as the reigning world singles champion from 2012 and 2016.
Affectionately nicknamed the “nana” of the team at the ripe ‘old’ age of 43, Murphy will also lend her renowned competitiveness to the women’s pairs, in what could perhaps be a fairy-tale finish 12 years on from her last Games triumph, alongside another ‘veteran’ of the sport, in 362-international gamer Kelsey Cottrell, who has enjoyed a 13-year international career despite only being 27 years of age.
Equally capable of topping the dais is the women’s triples and fours teams, both of which won the world titles in December 2016.
Australia’s number one female bowler Carla Krizanic, three-time Games representative Natasha Scott and Tasmania’s athlete of the year Rebecca Van Asch, on debut at a Games, will fly the nation’s flag in the triples, while Cottrell will lead the fours, with Scott handed the skipping duties.
In the men’s side of the draw, the man charged with trying to replicate Kerkow’s heroics in the singles is a 26-year old Games debutant Aaron Wilson, who is a dark-horse against one of the strongest fields in memory, which includes New Zealand’s world champion Shannon McIlroy, Scotland’s defending Games medallist Darren Burnett and Gold Coast-based Canadian Ryan Bester.
Wilson will also unite with Gold Coast local Brett Wilkie in the men’s pairs, the discipline Australia has won more gold medals in than any other at the Games, with the duo aiming to replicate the world title they secured in 2016 in Wilson’s first international appearance.
The men’s triples and fours teams are also highly fancied, under the guidance of Aron Sherriff, who many regard as the sport’s preeminent player despite a lack of Games gold.
Barrie Lester and Nathan Rice will reunite at this Games, with the pair having history as bronze medal winning teammates from 2006, with Sherriff skipping, while the fours quartet consists of Lester, Wilkie, Rice and Sherriff.
The two Para-sport teams, contesting the vision-impaired mixed pairs and open disability triples disciplines, are also in the box seat to add to the nation’s medal count, with their biggest threats likely to come from New Zealand and South Africa.
However, standing in the way of the Jackaroos dreams of a gold rush are a host international raiders boasting home-ground knowledge, many of whom are permanently based on our shores, including Canadian Ryan Bester and Kelly McKerihen, New Zealanders Ali Forsyth, Paul Girdler, Jo Edwards, Val Smith and Katelyn Inch, and Scotland’s Kay Moran.
At the last home Games, in 2006, Australia claimed three gold, one silver and bronze from six disciplines contested, which was their greatest performance to date.
With 10 gold medals up for grabs and another home ground advantage this year, exceptions are sky-high for the Jackaroos at GC2018.
The Lawn Bowls competition commences on Thursday, April 5 and runs until Friday, April 13 at Broadbeach Bowls Club.