Reggae Rollers make their mark & Van Asch continues to win

by admin on April 10, 2018

When Bowls Tasmania asked me to make contributions to their website, I thought my focus would always be on the State Side, or Lee Schraner or Rebecca Van Asch or someone doing well. Covering the Commonwealth Games, it has been brilliant to watch Van Asch achieve her dream and to see the Australian team doing well as a whole, but something else caught my eye today. Now maybe this is because I cry every time I watch Cool Runnings, or maybe I’m just a sucker for an underdog, but this story is more than that of the Jamaican Bob Sled team, much much more.
Andrew Newell is not a name known by the Tasmanian public, but it was one I remember from almost 7 years ago. Newell was an English bowler of Jamaican heritage who posted on a forum I belonged to, Bowlsworld, asking why Jamaica wasn’t on the world stage for bowls. It turns out that there wasn’t a body running the game in Jamaica so there wasn’t eligibility to compete. For most people, that would be the end, not for Newell. It has been a long process but he has put in the hard yards, creating the Jamaican Lawn Bowls Association and jumping through all of the hoops put in front of him by World Bowls. Whilst the Jamaican bob sledders could just train and compete, Newell had to do all of the behind the scenes work before even proving he was the best Jamaican bowler.
Then we get to the Games itself. Newell was teamed up with Mervyn Edwards in the Pairs, or simply Merv to Newell, but things didn’t go their way. “In the Pairs I didn’t perform, I left Merv with too much to do.”  The results confirm Newell’s point, four losses ranging from 11 to 29 was nothing to write home about. “We didn’t want to have excuses for our performance but the greens are different to what we are used to in London and other teams have had a lot better preparation to us.” As an Australian fan, I was keeping an eye on this Jamaican team. They had enjoyed the opening ceremony and just looked like they were enjoying themselves, but after the first two singles round saw Newell lose 21-0 (to McIlroy) & 21-2 (to Kenyan bowler Cephas Kimwaki Kimani) I was worried that he would go home with his tail between his legs. “I wasn’t enjoying my bowls. I found myself thinking thoughts such as, I don’t want to go home from the Commonwealth Games and to not have enjoyed it, and I needed to enjoy it no matter what!”
Things weren’t going to get easier for Newell, with his 3rd round opponent being Robert Paxton from England, a current World Champion in the Triples. Surely only a Hollywood script would see Newell beat the best player from the country he lives in and plays in. Well, at the start of the match it looked like Spielberg had taken control. After failing to score more than 2 shots in the first two rounds, Newell lead 3-0 after 2 ends. “On that first day of singles, I was incredibly nervous but as I said, I needed to enjoy my bowls and today that is what I did.” 3-0 became 7-0 and Paxton wasn’t sure what had hit him! 1 shot on the 6th end and maybe that was it, Paxton could now change the length and assert his authority. Newell had other ideas. Scores of 13-3 & 17-4 showed that Newell was dominating. “Robert wasn’t playing his best and I was so pleased to be playing well, in fact I don’t think I have ever played any better!” But Paxton wasn’t going to be held down and slowly started to play his way into the game getting the score back to 19-16 after 25 ends, but during this time Newell had options to try and win the game, “Merv wanted me to finish the game off but I knew if I was patient I would get a chance, which I did.” Newell held a match winning 2 shots on the 26th end with Paxton running at the head, but missed. The fairy tale had come true! “I could & couldn’t believe it! I wanted to just run over to the crowd but I shook hands first and then told the scoreboard attendant to not touch the board, I need to get a photograph of that! I was so elated, I just can’t explain it! This means so much to me, more than people realise. I have put a lot into Jamaican bowls, the Reggae Bowls brand and I didn’t want to go home having lost every game. I wanted to be able to justify it to everyone, all the effort.” It appears as though it’s not just me that have been fans of the Reggae Rollers, “The support has been amazing. Everyone is so nice and the crowds are positive, even when I was losing 21-0 to Shannon (McIlroy). I would wonder if they saw us play, but it’s been absolutely immense.”
Not only did Newell win against England, he proved it wasn’t a fluke and then went out to defeat Indian player Krishna Xalko 21-18 to move up to 4th out of 6 in his section. No Jamaican player or team had ever entered the Commonwealth Games and now Newell had won two games in a day! So, sorry to get sidetracked from Van Asch and the Jackaroos, but hopefully you agree that it’s a great story that needs to be told.
Rebecca Van Asch was able to put aside the extra media attention to focus on the Women’s Triples. They had two rounds to play today against India & Canada. Against India a strong start was whittled away by the Indians and at 11-11 after 14 ends, a Gold Medal hangover was on the cards. But the team of Carla Krizanic, Natasha Scott & Van Asch didn’t allow the Indian team to win another end and ran away winners 20-11. Against Canada they picked up a 4 on the 6th end to go to 8-4 and then another 4 on the 15th end to make it 20-8 and those two ends accompanied with consistent play, helped to take out the match 20-13. But even though the Triples is in full swing, I still wanted to know how Van Asch felt about that Gold Medal, “Yesterday is still a bit surreal. We only had about 15mins by the time we had the presentation and fulfilled our media commitments, to go and get dressed and ready to go play our first round of triples. So it was a pretty quick turnaround. We’ve completely turned our focus to the triples now. We’ll really take it all in at the end of the week and celebrate our success then, but for now there’s still work to be done.” It’s been great to see the Australian Media pick up on the success including shows such as Sunrise, but I was worried it may have interfered with the routine of them team; “The media attention has certainly been different to what we’re used to. But hopefully it has been great publicity for the sport. We were lucky we didn’t have our first game until 4pm this afternoon which freed us up to do Sunrise and other media before having a break and getting back into game mode after lunch. Kelsey had a 9am game this morning in the pairs so she wasn’t able to come with us.” And I guess the results of the day show that they have been able to handle the attention!
Van Asch has changed roles for the Triples, moving to the skips position. Most other countries use the same skip for triples and fours but the Australians have had previous success; “Our triples combination has played together a lot over the past couple of years in this order and we enjoy playing together. We do have different game plans for the triples, we go about things slightly different. It must seem odd to people that Tash and I swap over depending on the discipline but for us it’s what works better and plays each of us to our strengths.” The last point I made to Van Asch was during the Indian game she would have turned up to see Invermay team mate Debra Lee on the scoreboard! “It was funny when I realised Deb was on our score board. We were very professional though.”
The other Australian results were as follows
Para Pairs Semi Final – Australia def Scotland 14-8
The Australian Para Pairs team is confirmed a medal after defeating Scotland by 6 shots. This was a 10 shot turnaround from yesterday and a crucial win when it counts. Australia will now play South Africa in the Final. South Africa are the defending Commonwealth Games Champions but Australia did defeat South Africa 26-3 in the sectional play. I would guess that Australia won’t find it that easy as they play for the Gold Medal!
Women’s Pairs – Australia def Niue 35-11 & Malta 18-14
Kelsey Cottrell & Karen Murphy made it three from three with their two wins today. They were never troubled against Niue but didn’t have it their own way against Malta. The family partnership of Rebecca & Connie-Leigh Rixon led the Australian pairing 7-2 & 14-11 but couldn’t advance beyond 14 losing 7 shots in the last four ends.
Men’s Singles – Aaron Wilson def Phillip Jones (Norfolk Island) 21-18, Petrus Breitenbach (South Africa) 21-6 & Daniel Salmon (Wales) 21-16
Wilson’s three games were the last of his sectional play, finishing undefeated from his five games and naturally finishing on top of his section. He will now wait out the last round of the other sections and then the random draw to see which 2nd place finisher he will play against. Wilson was devastating when on the TV rink against South Africa and I’m sure will be very keen to play on that rink again during the knock out stages.
Men’s Singles
Australia 15 Points
South Africa 12 Points
Wales 9 Points
Malta 6 Points
Norfolk Island 3 Points
Cook Islands 0 Points
Other sections will see the following players progress; Section A New Zealand (finish top if they beat India) & England, Section B Northern Ireland & Canada (Play each other tomorrow, winner wins the section), Section C Scotland & Malaysia (section complete).
Women’s Pairs
Australia 9 Points +47
England 9 Points +40
Papua New Guinea 3 Points +6
Malta 3 Points +3
Zambia 3 Points -39
Niue 0 Points
All other sections are very close with only 2 rounds played so far as they have sections of 5 instead of 6.
Women’s Triples
Australia 9 Points +36
Papua New Guinea 6 Points -34
Fiji 3 Points +3
India 3 Points +1
Canada 3 Points -6
Assuming Australia defeat Fiji, the winner of India & Canada will finish 2nd despite both sitting 4th and 5th with one game to go. Papua New Guinea will be hoping that they draw!
Men’s Fours
Australia had a bye today, so slip to 2nd but are undefeated and can finish 1st if they win their remaining games
India 6 Points +19
Australia 3 Points +16
South Africa 3 Points +6
Norfolk Island 0 Points -18
Botswana 0 Points -23
TV Rink games for tomorrow
Men’s Singles Ryan Bester (Canada) vs Gary Kelly (Northern Ireland)
Women’s Pairs New Zealand vs Canada
Women’s Pairs Scotland vs Malaysia
Women’s Pairs Australia vs England
Women’s Triples Wales vs New Zealand
Men’s Fours Australia vs India
Para Pairs Gold Medal Match – Australia vs South Africa
Para Pairs Bronze Medal Match – Wales vs Scotland
Other Australian Matches
Women’s pairs vs Papua New Guinea
Para Triples Semi Final vs South Africa
Women’s Triples vs Fiji
Men’s Fours vs Norfolk Island
Women’s Triples Quarter Final vs ????
That’s all for now. Please share the link to this article so that others can see it and come have a read! Good luck to the Jackaroos tomorrow!
By David Genford