Sides Championships comes to a close
The Teams have returned home, new friendships have been made and old friendships rekindled but the serious side of things was on the green, where our Men ended the penultimate day in 3rd and our Women had yet to register a win. Let’s see how they fared in the last day, where they played South Australia in the morning and Queensland in the afternoon.
The match against South Australia for the Men was crucial on multiple levels. Both teams still had a chance to catch the Victorian team who was on top of the ladder. If South Australia could win and defeat Western Australia, whilst hoping for Victoria to slip up in one of their games against the ACT or NSW. For Tasmania, two wins in the day would almost assure themselves of back to back silver medals. In short, both teams had a lot to play for and no inch would be given.
The Tassie boys got off to a good start but didn’t have things their own way. Mark Nitz, playing against Max Kleinig dropped a 6 on the second end, but the rink kept their nerve and picked up 7 shots over the next two ends. Michael Sims, who had Scott Thulborn as his opposition, picked up a 6 of his own on his second end, but then also saw Thulborn pull back shots and were level at 8-8 after 6 ends. Lee Schraner who took on Wayne Reudiger ensured the Henselite Tigers would lead early with a 12-3 start after 5 ends. In fact, Schraner was able to keep the foot down and extended his lead to 16 shots, leading 16-4. Nitz was also continuing to rebound from his nightmare start, winning 8 consecutive ends in a row and a 12 shot cushion of his own. Sims was having a close game, but with the overall score the main objective, that is all he had to do. Tasmania was riding the momentum but South Australia was not going to lie down. The momentum started to turn, Schraner dropped 12 shots in 5 ends, Nitz dropped 10 shots in 6 ends & Sims was starting to fall behind. The South Australians were right back in it. The 19 shot lead was reduced to 4 and then 1 with 6 ends to go. Sims would lose 15-22, dropping 5 shots in the last 3 ends but he was off the green and left the two winning rinks to fight out the last 6 ends. Nitz picked up a 4 on the penultimate end to give the Tigers some breathing room, Schraner also picked up 3 shots over 2 ends and things looked finished. That was until Schraner dropped a 4 on his last end and the lead was three with one end to play. Nitz ensured there would be no fairy tale finish for South Australia, dropping one shot but the win was ours.
With Victoria defeating the ACT, the Alley Shield was theirs, for the second time in 3 years. An undefeated 6 matches showing that this was fully deserved. It also meant that 4 teams were equal 2nd on 4 wins, Tassie were 2nd due to rink wins but needed to defeat Queensland and have the same rink wins as South Australia & NSW if they were to win their matches. The race for second was on!
The matchups saw Schraner take on Aron Sherriff, Michael Sims vs Brett Wilkie & Mark Nitz vs Nathan Rice, three skips of the highest quality, this was not going to be an easy task. But unlike previous teams, this team didn’t approach this with an expectation to lose. We had previously beaten Queensland in a three test series, including in last year’s Alley Shield. Could we do it one more time? It was a tense start across the three rinks but the bowls was of the highest quality, a narrow lead to us, whilst Western Australia, who had nothing to lose or gain, got off to a lightning start against South Australia. After 15 ends the scores were tied but it would then be that Queensland would start to take the upper hand. Nathan Rice won 9 consecutive ends against Nitz to take an 8 shot lead after 12 ends. Schraner also fell behind Sherriff by 2 whilst Sims was the only rink to lead. But Tasmania was not going to lie down, Schraner won 4 ends in a row, Sims picked up 7 shots in 2 ends and the scores were with 5 shots. The ends were close, consistently changed over and you could see yourself hold 4 shots to only drop 4 due to a good bowl. The crowd were on the edge of their seat and the players were giving them something to cheer. As we entered the second half of the match it was obvious that Western Australia was going to inflict a heavy defeat on South Australia, and Victoria and NSW was close but it wouldn’t be a three rink win to NSW, so 2 rinks and an overall win would be good enough for 2nd. In our match, the scores stayed close, Schraner dropped a 5 but Nitz would pick up a 4 but most ends would finish in a single that kept the score close. Sherriff & Schraner would play an enthralling match with the last 4 ends resulting in singles and Schraner would end up winning by 1, 19-18. The next off the green would be Nitz, 4 shots on the 19th end gave Tassie the lead and gave Nitz enough of a buffer to take the rink win 18-16 an impressive come back from 4-12 down. The last end would be for Sims & Wilkie. Tassie led by 1, knowing a win would give them 2nd, a draw would give them 3rd & a loss would leave us in 4th. An early conversion from Anthony Kiepe playing two, gave Queensland the shot but Tassie had second or two seconds. As the skips crossed, Kiepe’s bowl remained, a draw was not god enough for either side, Queensland needed the win to jump ahead of us in the rankings, so both teams were trying to convert the head. No luck for either skip with their first and with Wilkie’s second he almost turned the head over in our favour but just missed. It all came down to the last bowl. But alas, it wasn’t to be, Kiepe’s bowl would remain, a draw would be the overall result and NSW would jump into 2nd spot, with Tasmania in 3rd and Queensland in 4th.
Our Women ended their campaign unable to register a win. They kept the score close against South Australia but fell away to succumb to a 16 shot loss. Rebecca Van Asch was able to register a rink win, 23 -15 against Renata Callisto but once her rink was finished first, the other two South Australian rinks finished strongly. Laini McGorman would win the last 11 ends against Erin Sesara to win 27-10 & Candice Hodgetts was able to fight back from 12 shots down to lose by 7 14-21 against Susan Hutchinson.
The match against Queensland was not the way the team wanted to finish, with Queensland running away comprehensive winners 80 to 35 with not many positives to report back from this encounter.
The overall win would go to NSW, who won all 7 matches but a special mention should go to the Northern Territory. After many years of not winning one match, they won 4 matches of their 7 and finished 4th only one rink behind 3rd spot.
So that brings us to an end of another Sides Championships. Our Women will walk away very disappointed but also fully aware of what can happen when a few players perform below their best, at this level you get punished and it is very difficult to come back from.
Our Men should walk away very pleased with a third place. This team and the team before it, could well go down as one of the best Tasmanian teams to play so well over successive years. To finish 2nd in 2017 & 3rd in 2018 for a state that most neutral observers think should finish 6th or 7th, is a tremendous achievement. The irony is, that for the players that have been involved over the last two years, they may actually look back with disappointment, but only because they were so close to first and second on both occasions. I implore all of those players if they read this, to not focus on what could have been but what they have achieved. I think it was 3 years ago Bowls Tas set out a 5 year plan to finish 3rd in one of the Sides Championships, that has already been achieved twice. Other states don’t see us as easy beats anymore, we have beaten them consistently and we no longer put them on a pedestal and that is because of the hard work our players have put in, as well as our coaches and support staff. So be proud, you have represented your state well and we have loved being on the journey with you.
Just to tidy up a few things, Aaron Jago & Erin Sesara were named players of the series, congratulations to both players but especially Aaron who was making his Alley Shield debut. Congratulations should also go out to Lee Schraner’s rink of Josh Mabb, Luke Richardson & Robert McMullen who won 6 out of their 7 matches and finished second on the skips standings. For those that don’t understand the nuances of the competition, most states name their best skip as the number 1 rink so Schraner played Sherriff, Wilson, Lester, Reudiger etc on the way to 6 rink wins. A great effort by his team. It was also great to see Mark Nitz’ rink finish 8th & Michael Sims 10th, all three rinks in the top 10, a great achievement! 14 rink wins of 21, very impressive as a whole state!
A big thanks to Chris Lee, Phil Hobbs & Jess McMullen for their score updates and live streaming of the action, as well as Gwenda King & Trevor Docking for sending me through all of the score cards. It’s great to see our state punching above its weight and we do that both on and off the green thanks to the players and these people who go above and beyond when it comes to Social Media.
Round 6 – Men
Tasmania def South Australia 67-65
Schraner def Reudiger 27-24
Sims def by Thulborn 15-22
Nitz def Kleinig 25-19
Round 6 – Women
Tasmania defeated by South Australia 47-63
Van Asch def Callisto 23-15
Sesara def by McGorman 10-27
Hodgetts def by Hutchinson 14-21
Round 7 – Men
Tasmania drew with Queensland 55-55
Schraner def Sherriff 19-18
Sims def by Wilkie 18-21
Nitz def Rice 18-16
Round 7 – Women
Tasmania def by Queensland 35-80
Van Asch def by Keegan 5-29
Sesara def by Millerick 13-31
Hodgetts def by Clarke 17-20
Ladder – Men
1 VIC 18 Points, 2 NSW 15 Points, 3 TAS 13 Points (14 Rink Wins), 4 QLD 13 Points (11.5 Rink Wins), 5 SA 12 Points, 6 – WA 9 Points, 7 – NT 3 Points, 8 – ACT 0 Points
Ladder – Women
1 NSW 21 Points, 2 VIC 15 Points, 3 Queensland 12 Points (12 Rink Wins), 4 Norther Territory 12 Points (11 Rink Wins), 5 WA 12 Points (9 Rink Wins), 6 ACT 9 Points, 7 SA 3 Points, 8 TAS 0 Points
By David Genford