An interview with Rebecca Van Asch
Last week Rebecca Van Asch played in the Multi Nations event at Broadbeach, featuring some of the World’s best bowlers as they start their preparations for the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Van Asch walked away with a Gold in the Triples and a Silver in the Fours after losing to the other Australian team on an extra end. After this event Van Asch had a fly in fly out visit at home before returning to Qld to play in the Australian Open.
Van Asch was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions about her recent tournaments, the current build up to the Commonwealth Games and the upcoming Australian Open.
Congratulations on the gold and silver medals at the recent Multi Nation series. How did you feel you played personally?
I’m stoked to come away with a gold and silver medal from the Multi Nations to back up our strong performance in the Trans-Tasman just before that. We really dominated our triples final and I was really happy with the conversions that I made early in that match to help us get a strong start. We went to an extra end in the fours final, so you can’t get much closer than that! We lost to our own girls that match so it wasn’t too bad in the end.
Australia did very well, were the other teams at full strength or do you see a lot of improvement coming from them as the Commonwealth Games approach?
The other countries are also starting their preparations for next year’s Commonwealth Games as well. This was their first lead up event on our greens before the Games so it was a bit of a feeler for them I guess. It was great to be so dominant this series, but we know that the other teams will learn from this and go back and start preparing even more so we’ll be expecting them to come back firing even harder next time. But we’ll also try to keep improving and continuing our preparations as well. As happy as we are with this past week we’ve still got improvements to make and learning to do as well.
These medals also came off the back of success at the Trans-Tasman event, where do both of these events rank for you? Are they just tuning up events for bigger things or are they still an important focus?
Any time you get the privilege to wear the green and gold it’s game on! Every year our Trans-Tasman Series’ are really hard fought battles and they are definitely grudge matches with the old foe. But they are always played in great spirit with a friendly rivalry of sorts. Both teams get along quite well off the green and we socialise a bit after the game but it is one of the big events on our international calendar and one that both countries really want to win.
The multi nations events are always held in preparation prior to one of the big benchmark events; World Championships, Commonwealth Games or Asia Pacific Championships. We generally send a squad of players to the multi nations events and rotate through positions and disciplines. So it is used as a trials exercise for us to go towards picking teams for one of those big three championships. As a player it is really good, because we don’t look it as trials, we are representing our country first and foremost, so we are one team just trying to win.
It’s the off-season down in Tasmania at the moment, how do you stay in tune for all of these big events?
I made a decision a long time ago to stay in Tassie and try and represent Australia from home. It’s a decision I don’t regret one bit. It does make it a little harder at this time of year with our greens closed and a lack of competition down here for about 6 or 7 months, but I think I have managed to turn this into a positive for myself and I have really worked hard on perfecting my training programs over the years to try and have my “peaks” at the right time.
Having had most of April and May off from competitive bowls I felt really fresh for this last series, I was really keen to get back into it all. I think that’s really healthy for me. This gave me an opportunity to spend a couple of months focussing on drills in areas that I thought I needed to improve on. (I won’t give away what those weaknesses were though!) I do this training in my lunch break on East Launceston’s carpet. I usually plan my training about 2 weeks in advanced looking at the long range forecast with our weather at this time of year.
I also get an opportunity to focus more on my physical fitness at this time of year as well which is really important and I don’t think people probably appreciate how much time we actually put into our off green training to be physically fit for these events. I played 24 games in 8 days this series and I still felt as good at the end of the 8 days as I did at the start which is really important. I began working with a personal trainer when I upped the ante trying to make the team for the last World Championships and I really think that has helped my game a lot.
The Commonwealth Games is obviously the next big goal, how does the team maintain such a strong camaraderie when in reality you are all competing against each other for a spot in the team?
It probably sounds really cliché but we really are a tight knit team so we celebrate for each other and bleed for each other as well. It’s like a big extended family and some of them are some of my closest mates. (Don’t tell them I said that though!) The last World Championships team announcement was a really weird experience for me to be honest. I had worked really hard to get back into the team and I was of course over the moon that I was in there, but I was actually really flat for most of the afternoon because two of my best mates had missed out and I was devastated for them. So it is a really hard experience. But we all respect each other so much and we know that the players don’t pick the teams so it’s nothing personal between the playing group when selections are made.
You’ve been given a skips role in the both the Multi Nations and Trans-Tasman, is that the spot you most prefer to play?
I don’t really have a preference, I’m really happy to play whatever position I’m asked, to contribute as best I can to the team and the overall result. Our positions within the team have varied at times to try and play to each of our strengths depending on the conditions at the time. I do play mostly backend because my aggressive game is one of my biggest strengths. But if I’m fortunate enough to get selected for event I’ll play whatever position to the best of my ability.
With all of the travel you do in regards to bowls, you must have a very supportive group of family and friends to help you out?
Things do certainly get hectic at times. I have had to become super organised with everything in my life and even more so since I started working full time. I’m fortunate that I can do my work from anywhere really so I do a lot of work on the road during those busy periods which sometimes means for some pretty late nights. I generally have my calendar organised for at least 8 months in advance and up to 12 months in advance in a lot of cases. My husband and I have been together since I was playing for Australia in the junior ranks so my travel has always been a part of our lives. We always plan our holidays about 6months in advance based on my bowls calendar, we even planned our wedding based on the International schedule haha. So I am definitely lucky to have such a supportive partner. My whole family is great and have always helped me manage everything and given me so much emotional support. I certainly would never have made it this far without them. The week before I went to Queensland for this event I had a massive week at work getting things settled and we had a couple of home deliveries of dinners from mum just to help out which was fantastic. My friends are great, I don’t think they really know most of the time what event I’m actually away playing in, or even what I might have won haha. They just know I’m away again and probably missing a birthday celebration or a catch up. It’s nice to have that release away from the sport though.
And now for the Australian Open. Being a jackaroo, do you always feel like you have a target on your back? Everyone wants to be able to say they defeated a world champion?
Yes it is hard sometimes and we know that we have a big target on us every time we head out on the green. Australian’s are renowned for the “tall poppy syndrome” and barracking for the underdog so unfortunately people do like to see us get beat. But that is something that you learn to deal with. We are realistic enough to know that we just can’t perform at our optimum every time we go out on the green and sometimes we might even pick events where we are working on certain game plans or techniques so it’s not always about the results for us. This is something that I really struggle with playing at home in Tassie sometimes. People often expect you to be perfect all the time and it’s just not possible. My club mates always know the best time to play me in a club game is when I just get back from a big event because I’m usually hopeless for a couple of weeks when I’m coming down from a peak and back on our slower greens.
Do you have some goals for the Australian Open or is it simply the cliché of one game at a time?
Anne Johns and I are heading back as defending champs in the pairs so obviously we would love to defend that title but yes it will really be one game at a time. Anne just gave birth to her second child only 4 weeks ago so I’m sure she’ll be looking forward to getting back into it. I’m actually most excited about getting to meet little Sophie for the first time. I used to really enjoy singles but I really don’t enjoy it as much anymore, I find that I am a lot more enthusiastic about the team events and getting to share the experience with friends. I find that I tend to get more motivation out of trying to be the best I can be for them rather than just myself. I decided to try a bit of a different approach to my singles at the Australian Indoor Championships last year and I managed to get runner up so I’ll try and do the same approach for this event and see if it works. I have set myself some personal goals on what stage I want to reach in each discipline and if I get further than that then it’s a bonus. At this point I would just like to make the most of being on the Gold Coast greens and in particular the Broadbeach greens in preparation for putting my best foot forward for selection for the Commonwealth Games.
Thanks again to Rebecca and we wish her all the best in her quest to be in the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games. It will now be great to see which Tasmanian players have success in the Australian Open.
It looks like there are lots of players who have flown/caravanned their way to the Gold Coast to participate. Keep an eye out for some articles during the event focusing on the success and enjoyment of all these players!
By David Genford