Heartbreak & Disappointment but no state could be prouder
The Henselite Tigers Men’s team has walked away from the 2017 National Sides championships with a Silver Medal, the best ever result by in the Alley Shield. Not only did the Men finish 2nd, but in the Overall standings, the Henselite Tigers finished 3rd, equal on points with the 2nd placed Victorians. But despite this tremendous effort, the gold medal was within grasp but ripped away by some good bowls and a little bit of luck that didn’t go our way. If you haven’t seen the footage provided on the Bowls Tasmania Facebook page, then I recommend you watch it. It’s Social Media at its best but the result will pull at your heart, unless you’re a South Australian supporter!
Let’s just say right from the start, Congratulations to the South Australian Men’s team for winning the title. It’s the first title since 1988 and they had an impressive run winning 6 of their 7 matches only losing to NSW by 5 shots. They were deserved winners who played well and I’m sure are still celebrating their win tonight. But hopefully, even they won’t begrudge us a little moment to say, what if and what a cruel game we play.
The Men’s side knew that a win against Victoria would probably be enough to take the overall title. But the start of the match wasn’t the best. Mark Nitz was down 1-18 against Aaron Wilson, who was playing his last game for Victoria before moving North of the border and he was out to end on a winning note. Lee Schraner was down 4-10 against Matty Flapper and the only shining light was Michael Sims and I’m talking about his scoreboard and not his hair, as that read 14-3 against Barrie Lester. But the Tasmanian hadn’t gotten this far to let this chance go without a fight. Nitz picked up 11 shots over 9 ends to reduce is margin to 10, Schraner picked up some multiples to reduce his margin to 4 & Sims maintained his 11 shot margin. There was only 3 shots in it.
But behind the scenes, little did some on lookers know, a scoring error had been discovered by the tournament director. South Australia had been denied a rink win due to a data entry error. This had now been corrected and South Australia were awarded an extra rink win. That changed the story line for the Tasmanians, now an overall win wouldn’t be enough, it had to be a 2 rink to win overall victory. The South Australia and ACT match also finished well before our match, they had won on all 3 rinks, either Nitz or Schraner had to win and the overall result had to be ours too.
Sims was the first to finish, a 26-13 win capped off an amazing series for his rink. They could do no more but sit back and watch. The Victorians lead by 3, Nitz couldn’t win his rink and Schraner was behind by 5. It didn’t look likely at all. But then the unthinkable happened, Schraner picked up a 6! Not only were Tassie 3 in front but Schraner was 1 up on his rink with 3 ends to play. Tassie and the Vic exchanged shots over the next few ends, all singles, no team was giving the other an inch. Nitz finished, winning the last 3 ends and reducing his margin to 9. The umpire was needed to measure on the other rink and it was one to Tassie. One end to go, Schraner leads by 1, Tassie lead by 5, it all comes down to this end. If Tassie win it, the title is theirs.
The first time they play the end, Tasmania holds 3 only to see Flapper kill the end. The second time, we hold again Scott Summers is drawing touchers, Rob McMullen is adding to the count but this time their three kills the end. Take 3. This time Andrew Whitmore gets the shot only for the Vics to get it back but McMullen trails the jack and we are holding three! And the Victorian three kills it. For the fourth time the end starts, the most important end in possibly the history of Tasmania at a Sides Championship, a bit scrappier then the first three versions but we hold until Victoria trails the jack. We have two bowls left in the hands of Lee Schraner. The decision is to drive. Schraner releases, the bowl is on line, it’s got the jack, and the crowd sense the victory is ours. Only to see the jack hit the bank and go back up the green. 3 down. Heartbreak. The match isn’t over, Flapper draws out of bounds. Schraner has a chance to draw the shot, but as the bowl heads down the green it gets hit by the wind and drops short. That’s it. Well, not yet. Flapper wants to try and make the 6 needed, his focus is on Victoria finishing 3rd, not the overall result. He drives, but this is the bowl that hits nothing. It’s over. We’ve defeated the Vics but lost to South Australia by one rink win for the shield.
At the same time the Henselite Tigers Women’s team were fighting it out against Victoria. A win could propel them into 3rd and also a combined overall 2nd placing. All three rinks got off to positive starts. Rebecca Van Asch led by 2 after 8 ends, Lyn Triffitt won the first four ends for a 4-0 lead and Candice Hodgets who was playing Carla Krizanic lead by 4 after 5 ends. Could the ladies finish off the week on a high?
The Victorian team fought their way back into the match, mainly by picking up multiple scores and creating a gap between the two teams. Hodgetts dropped consecutive 4’s & Triffitt dropped 2 3’s in a 5 end period which gave the Victorians a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Van Asch had a titanic struggle that never saw the margin in her rink be more than 4 and went into the last end all square. A 2 to the Victorians on the final end gave them the rink 19-17. Lyn Triffit’s rink also kept the score close, also never seeing margin higher than 4 and went into the last end with a 2 shot lead. But once again the Victorian’s were able to pick up a 2 and forced a draw. After losing the consecutive 4’s, Hodgetts team started to leak shots and were 11 shots down at one stage. But to their credit they fought back hard but also lost a 2 on the last end to go down by 7.
Unfortunately for our women, the loss dropped them back to 6th on the ladder with a 3-4 record. A close loss to the ACT in the first round costing them 4th spot. Candice Hodgetts was our best performed skip with 4 wins and 3 losses and she finished 12th in the Skips standings.
But back to our Men. It can be easy to understand why they may feel shattered or disappointed. When you are so close to ultimate glory it hurts and it’s hard to sit back and reflect on how well everything went. Research suggests that an Olympic Bronze medallist is happier than a Silver medallist. The Bronze recipient, just happy to get on to the dais, but the Silver medallist regretful they aren’t one step higher. I hope that our players can be a happy Silver medallist, they have had an outstanding week, let’s recap some of their achievements;
– First Tasmanian team to finish 2nd in the Alley Shield
– First Tasmanian team to finish 6-1
– Defeated Qld 3-0 in their Bishop Singleton Shield, winning the shield for the first time
– Defeated NSW, Qld & Vic, the three powerhouse states
– Only lost one match by 3 shots, to the eventual winners SA
– Combined with the Women, finished 3rd Overall, a feat never achieved by Tasmania
This has been a sensational performance, professional, consistent and cohesive as a team. There were no lapses of concentration that had plagued previous campaigns, there were no ‘bad’ games, and there were no passengers. And for that, the 12 players should return with their heads high and their chest puffed out, as Silver medallists and worthy recipients of one too!
For the Men, Michael Sims 5-3 finished 5th in the skips rankings & Mark Nitz 4.5-3.5 finished 8th.
The players of the series were Robert McMullen & Kim Saunders.
And before I finish, a big thank you to Chris Lee & Phil Hobbs. The live streaming through Facebook, really gave you the sense of being at the game. To be able to see the reaction of the players and to hear the support of the crowd was fantastic. And for Phil to be continually updating the scores, so that those who were too busy to watch the live stream were kept up to date was fantastic.
I’m sorry that this article has been so long. I just hope I have done justice to the 24 players who tried their hearts and guts out for Tasmania over the last 3 days. If you’ve only got a spare couple of minutes after reading this, head to Bowls Tasmania Facebook and watch the medal presentation to our boys. The applause the crowd gave showed the respect that they earned and fully deserved.
By David Genford