French-Holbrook Test Series
This week sees the 50th series between Tasmania & Victoria take place in Clayton, Victoria as David Genford reports for Bowls Tasmania. For only the 7th time in History, the Tasmanian men will be attempting to defend their crown after winning the best of five test series 3.5-1.5 in Tasmania last year. The women almost made it a double only narrowly losing the 5th and deciding test and will be hoping to go one better this time around.
The Under 18 Boys and Girls team will also be competing at the same time, hoping to gain some revenge from their 3-0 losses that both teams suffered last year.
The recent play of some of the men should aid in their confidence in this test. Mark Nitz & Lee Schraner, two of the Tasmanian skips, were recently victorious in the Moama Classic Pairs. This event saw a high quality field take part and the two Tasmanians were the only players left undefeated.
Former International player Lee Schraner said the win last year gave some renewed confidence to the men’s team this year and they weren’t worried about the Vic’s gaining the home ground advantage this year.
“The team is reasonably confident but take nothing for granted. We have done the training and the hard work so now it’s time to execute our skills.
Last year’s win was ground breaking. It is important to put in a solid performance to back up last year’s achievement.
Away from home doesn’t matter. Tassie have been successful at Clayton before so we will go in believing that we can cause back to back upsets.”
Schraner also said that our men were expecting some tough opposition from the new look Victorian outfit.
“The Victorian side boasts a mix of experience and youth. Four new players represent Victoria so they are the ones to be weary of. All of their skips have played for Australia so they know what it’s all about. Overall its 12 on 12 and may the best team win. The Tassie team is looking forward to the challenge.”
Headlining the Big V is International player of the year and stalwart of the team Matthew Flapper who was good enough to speak with us today.
“I don’t think the loss last year came as a shock because Tasmania have improved in leaps and bounds over the last couple of years. I felt our preparation going into the series was poor and our performance reflected that. Personally I had a shocker of a series which I only made the decision to go late due to ill health. My team in particular struggled and found it hard to compete.
We have a new squad going into the series this year and fresh blood into our team will ensure there is a renewed enthusiasm amongst the group. Most of the Melbourne Premier Division players in the side would have had the chance to play on the greens at Clayton at some stage so they would have the heads up on what we should expect.”
Flapper said the home town favourites were hoping to gain some local support for the event.
“Having a local crowd cheering you on can always help, let’s hope the Melbourne bowls public embrace the series and get along to Clayton to watch their states best in action. Would have been good to have a twilight game thrown in that could showcase the game to those that work full time.”
Flapper recently announced his retirement from the Australian squad after a year that included representing the green and gold at the Commonwealth Games earning him the honour of Australian International Player of the Year.
“My role has not really changed so much due to my National retirement, if anything I would say I might have found a renewed passion again for representing my State because I don’t have as many other commitments. Honestly I probably lost that a little bit last year with everything else going on. Mate I am now the oldest in the side at 37. I suppose you could say I would be seen as Mentor to the younger group. There are four debutants into our side this year which is great, two will be in my rink. I am looking forward to that to see what they can bring to the Vics.”
When asked about the changes to the Victorian team, he felt that there was some positive moves for the team;
“Brett Spurr will relish the challenge at 3 for Aaron Wilson and together they will form a lethal combination. Dylan Fisher takes charge of the third rink and together with Barrie Lester who will step up to play 3 after years of playing front end will be a combination to keep an eye on. Of the debutants expect big things from Under 18 superstar Josh Corless and Mentone Edge’s gun Dale Jones.”
In the Women’s tests, Victoria will be without Carla Odgers who is away representing Australia in New Zealand. The depth of the Victorian team will still see them go into the test series very strong with their skips Chloe Stewart, Nicole Shortis and Lisa Phillips all players of the highest quality.
Our team still sees a strong core of players that defeated the Victorians in 2013 on their home ground with players such as Deb Lee, Yvonne Buckley, Erin Sesara & Bec Van Asch playing well during their Thursday and or Saturday pennant bowls. They are also joined by debutants Alison Venn & Dee Harman as well as a return for Courtney Hobbs.
Tasmania’s most capped International Bec Van Asch said our women were ready for the challenge ahead of them this week when she arrived in Victoria.
“We won the series last time we played at Clayton, so I think that will give us some confidence going into the series this time around”
“Courtney Hobbs re-joining our team after a 2 year break is a great addition to our team and will certainly add a lot of value to us and Erin Sesara has been promoted to a 3 after some strong performances skipping for her club and at a regional level We’re certainly hoping that we can reclaim the women’s shield this series.”
The Junior teams will be out to prove that the can match it with the Victorians after failing to win a test last year. The boys appear to be a strong team on paper with Josh Walker-Davis recently winning the Northern Pairs, Mitch Banks has been playing extremely well as a skip for New Norfolk in the Southern Premier League and when you also have players the quality of Lockie Sims, Will Coad & Julian Brown, anything could happen if these players are playing at their best.
The girls team sees some fresh faces due to some players no longer being eligible or being promoted to the senior ranks and the five girls selected will be hoping that they can find the right combinations to take it up to the Vics. Hopefully these girls will use the experience to further their bowls and one day make the Open team as Hollie Keen has this year.
It’s also important to note that a test series like this is important for those players pushing for National selection. Players such as Aaron Wilson, Dylan Fisher, Lisa Phillips & Bec Van Asch will be hoping to impress National Coach Steve Glasson with some of their performances. When asked what a test series like this means to national selectors Steve said, “We are always looking at squad members and potential squad members…. Particularly in elite events such as this. If we are not there in person, we make sure we have spotters there who report back to us. They are knowledgeable and understand our requirements!”
Best of luck to all players and hopefully we can see some trophies being brought back at the end of it all!