Australia advances in all four disciplines
The Australian Jackaroos will join Scotland and hosts New Zealand as having representatives in all four disciplines contested so far, in the finals of the 2017 World Championships. The Men’s pairs combination of Brett Wilkie and Aaron Wilson are the only team to go straight through to the Semi Finals for Australia, with the other three teams having to play tomorrow morning (approx 7am EDST) for the right to also play in the Semi Finals in the afternoon (approx. 11am EDST).
Rebecca Van Asch and her team of Kelsey Cottrell, Carla Krizanic and Natasha Scott did it the hard way after starting the sectional play with one win from four matches, but a well-timed positional change has proven to be a master stroke, with five consecutive victories to conclude the sectional play. Knowing that three wins wasn’t going to guarantee a spot in the top 3, Australia was handed a gift in Round 7 when Hong Kong defeated South Africa 16-13. A 26-13 win against Fiji meant that destiny was in Australia’s hands and no longer did they need to worry, or at least be slightly concerned about what was happening on other rinks. Round 8 saw a comfortable win against Singapore, 30-5, but this was joined by the further good news that South Africa had once again lost, this time 14-17 against Fiji. The finals spot was assured, something that never looked certain at the start of the days play. The last round produced an 18-15 win against Canada to help maintain momentum heading into the finals tomorrow. “We’re all very happy to have qualified, that was our first goal going in, so now we’ve ticked that off, the even harder work begins” said Tasmania’s only ever World Champion Van Asch. “Obviously we were disappointed with a few of our near misses, but we just stuck together and kept working hard. There’s now a long road ahead and we’re gearing up for tomorrow now. I am proud of how we have rallied and the whole rink was outstanding today, that’s the momentum we want to carry with us into the finals.”
The Women’s Fours team will now face Scotland who finished second in the other section of 10. They had 7 wins and 2 losses, those losses coming against section winners England 16-22 and the 7th placed Spain 12-19. The Scotland match will not be an easy affair but our team is ready to give their all. To the winners will be a match up against New Zealand in the Semi Finals. I’m sure the Australian team would love to avenge their 13-21 loss from Round 3 but all of their focus will be on Scotland for now.
Despite being 6-1 after a 7th round win against Guernsey (21-9), Karen Murphy’s spot in the finals was never assured until the last bowl of her day. Her Round 8 match was Murphy’s 550th match for Australia, an amazing feat in itself, but it would be her arch rival Jo Edwards of New Zealand that would gain the upper hand and earn a come from behind win 20-21. This now put Murphy on the precipice of exiting the tournament. A match against the Netherlands’ Saskia Schaft, a previous Runner Up in the World Champion of Champions event, would decide who would qualify for the finals. The match started off very evenly and it wasn’t until both players had reached double digits that Murphy was able to take a stranglehold on the match, running away a 21-12 winner and keeping a live her hopes of defending her title. “At the start of the day, I was just concentrating on winning two games. Now I’m just so happy that all the disciplines have qualified for the finals! In regards to defending my title, I’m still a chance” said Murphy at the end of the days play.
In Murphy’s post sectional match she will play Siti Zalina Ahmad of Malaysia who finished second in her section with a 6-3 record. Ahmad will be no stranger to Murphy, having won the Singles Gold Medal at the ’02 & ’06 Commonwealth Games as well as a Bronze Medal in the Singles in ’08 World Championships. But Murphy’s International Record is nothing to be sneezed at either. This should be a cracking game and hopefully we will see Murphy move on to the Semi Finals. If she does, her opponent will be Canada’s Kelly McKerihen, who Murphy defeated 21-19 in Round 5. Can History repeat itself?
The Men’s Pairs are guaranteed a bronze medal and will be the only Australian players who get the morning off whilst they await to see who their opposition will be in the Semi Final. Our combination finished with 7 Wins and a draw, finishing one point ahead of England. Brett Wilkie & Aaron Wilson needed to finish off the section strongly today to ensure they got the bye and did so by defeating the 2nd place England 16-15, Cyprus 26-13 and Canada 21-14 in a team that featured Ryan Bester. They will play the winner of Scotland and Malaysia, both teams who are not to be taken too lightly. Scotland are the defending champions and feature the player most rate as the World’s best in Alex Marshall. Australia did defeat Scotland 16-11 in Round 3 and will be keen to do so again. The Malaysian duo finished 2nd in their section only losing one game, to New Zealand 11-12 in the very first round of the tournament, meaning they are on an 8 game winning streak! Brett Wilkie was understandably very pleased after the sectional play was completed; “It was pleasing to finish on top of our group, we have combined well and now need to step up for the finals.” When questioned about his plans for tomorrow morning, weighing up supporting other Jackaroos or watching his opposition Wilkie replied, “We will be supporting our Aussie team mates, but will also keep an eye on the Pairs play-offs.”
The Men’s Triples may left to rue the two slip ups in their section, a 20-20 draw vs Wales and a 9-12 loss to Namibia as the second place finish will see them play fellow second place finishers Scotland. Japan and Ireland are the other play-off teams and I’m sure deep down they probably would have preferred to draw them but it’s now done. They will be focussed on their match up and keen to take on New Zealand in the Semi Final. Wins today against Jersey, Ireland & Canada will hopefully give all three players confidence heading into tomorrow’s play.
Australian Coach Steve Glasson was upbeat after the bowls had finished today. “I am delighted to have all 4 disciplines through. It’s an extraordinary effort considering some of the conditions that they faced. All players are upbeat and are now looking forward to the challenge.” When pushed about which players have been playing well, Glasson was diplomatic in response, “The Boys Pairs winning their group and gaining the direct access to the Semi Final and a guaranteed medal is excellent. But for all of our bowlers, it’s going to be tough, but when the going gets tough, the tough get going!
Let’s hope that all four teams are still alive after tomorrow’s games come to a close!
By David Genford