Australian star Kelsey Cottrell has experienced a number of Bowls Premier League events up close, in her role as Communications Coordinator, but witnessed the competition from a new angle in last week’s BPL05, as a player of the Club Helensvale Gold Coast Hawks. Here’s how Kelsey viewed the whole experience.
The fifth instalment of the revolutionary Bowls Premier League promised so much and delivered; with the quality of matches raising the competition to new levels, the staging of the event in a venue outside of the traditional bowls environment, a franchise going back-to-back for the first time in the event’s history, and a record crowd for finals night.
Much can be said about the remarkable back-to-back feat of the BCiB Sydney lions, but with the trophy firmly in their hands and back on Australian soil, the winner’s picture (enclosed in this article) speaks a thousand words.
Not only did the franchise achieve something unwitnessed in BPL history; they accomplished it on international soil against the crowd favourite Tower New Zealand Blackjacks in an epic final encounter.
Ben Twist, Karen Murphy and Aron Sherriff looked nothing short of the team to beat from start to finish, well perhaps that four game losing streak toward the end of the competition was exactly in the script, but a champion team will always bounce back and that’s exactly what they did, guided by National Coach Steve Glasson OAM.
While touching on the exceptional performances, the utmost praise must be given to World Singles Champion Shannon McIlroy who joined an illustrious group of BPL MVP winners.
There wouldn’t be a single person involved in the event or whom watched from afar that would dispute the voting that saw McIlroy, who is in the form of his career and phenomenal on both the indoor and outdoor surfaces, with the honour.
People who caught the action on day three would have witnessed the shot of the tournament when McIlroy drew within inches of the ditch against the Blundstone Melbourne Roys in the tie-break to snatch the victory.
If there was a prize for most entertaining team, the Roys would certainly win that, if there was a prize for the most unpredictable team, the Roys would likely get that too!
The commentator’s favourite player to interview would no doubt be the Crown Perth Suns John Slavich, who also gave viewers some fresh sayings to use on the bowling green, like “killer shot.”
I know a lot of people back home were hoping to see the underdog team, the Perth Suns, sneak into the finals, and I can tell you if you’re looking for someone to blame, it would be Moama Bowling Club’s Murray Steamers skip Ryan Bester!
It came down to the final round of sectional play, and in particular the match between the Murray Steamers and the New Zealand Blackjacks; if New Zealand won they would climb to second on the ladder and force the Sydney Lions to a sudden death elimination final, if the Murray Steamers lost the encounter they were out of the competition and the Perth Suns would slide into the finals.
I wish I could describe Ryan Bester’s last bowl of the second set in more detail but all you need to know is he played one of the shots of the event under immense pressure, forcing the match into a tie-breaker and keeping the Steamers’ finals hopes alive.
The tie-breaker came down to a running shot by Shannon McIlroy, who in all seriousness was never going to miss considering the form he was in, it was just a matter of whether the jack stayed in bounds or was re-spotted in the Steamers’ favour; and as you would know having watched the finals night, the jack went out by centimetres and it was the Steamers who advanced to the finals.
At the other end of the spectrum, I can mention the wooden spoon because it wasn’t my franchise; the Adelaide Endurance were cellar dwellers on this occasion, but having contested every finals series since the inaugural BPL, having one minor slip up can surely be tolerated.
Once again the decision to have a female in each franchise stood firm as having a positive impact on the event, and whilst all should be commended for their efforts in the toughest competition in the world, I have to stand Kristina Krstic, Ellen Ryan and Jo Edwards out for yet another consistent performance for their franchises.
Whilst I know the future of Australian bowls is in extremely safe hands, I think the whole the country now knows what our bright young female stars are made of, and we will no doubt be seeing more of them when BPL06 comes back around in eight short months this November.
How many sports can say that men and women compete against each other at the highest of levels; I can’t think of any, and whilst women’s AFL and women’s Cricket are experiencing meteoric rises and a positive change to public opinion, bowls has always been a sport where men and women can compete on an even playing field, so we have something pretty special to showcase.
A lot has been said about the use of the portable rink for the first time in the Southern Hemisphere and I personally think this is the start of something truly ground-breaking for our sport.
Yes, there were some tracks to keep the players on their toes, but the pace of the portable rink was easily 16, and the fact that it was placed inside a basketball arena was something I never thought I’d see in bowls.
It’s easy to let your imagination run wild at the endless possibilities for future BPLs; playing in convention centres, casinos, bustling city streets or close to beaches and the best thing about all of that is the possibility of exposing live, world class bowls to people who have never seen it before.
The attendance on finals night was sensational and provided the most amazing atmosphere from a player’s perspective
Obviously, a big test will come when the ratings from Sky Sport NZ and Fox Sports Australia are revealed but from what I’ve been hearing around the greens this week, Australians were right behind the BPL and loved that games were kicking off and finishing a bit earlier than previous events courtesy of that time difference.
Changing things up a bit, how awesome was Clive Adams on the microphone during the live broadcast matches?
For people who weren’t aware, Clive Adams from Western Australia, a former Perth Suns player, introduced the teams onto the rink, announced the power-plays during the matches, and updated the spectators of results, among other things, he sure did get in the spirit and create a great atmosphere inside the venue.
It would be rude of me not to mention the fantastic volunteers who were not only quick learners, with many locals having to learn the rules and get used to the fast paced nature of the format in just two days, but they were also friendly and hospitable hosts for all the teams.
Speaking of hosts, the eight New Zealand host clubs did a great job supporting their teams, with many of them purchasing corporate boxes, attending the day and night games, decking themselves out in their team’s colours and hosting the franchises, along with their friends and family to a welcome night at their clubs.
Some of them even cheered for their adopted teams when they faced off with the New Zealand Blackjacks, which was completely above and beyond their hosting duties!
Some people may have been wondering who was inside those mascot outfits; well on many occasions it was volunteers from the franchises host clubs who really got into the spirit of BPL.
I couldn’t finish reviewing the BPL without mentioning the amazing support I received from the Gold Coast Hawks franchise owners Club Helensvale.
There was a sea of green and gold every night with so many members from Club Helensvale making the trek across the ditch to cheer on the Hawks and they sure made me feel very welcomed as their teams late call up.
We say all the time that BPL is going to get bigger and better, and I can honestly say that it will.
Upon returning from BPL05 the BPL committee, Bowls Australia staff and Licensee holders of the eight franchises have already begun circulating a paper with new ideas going forward, including but not limited to possible rule changes and expansion discussions.
Don’t be surprised if over the next couple of years we have more BPLs staged each year, new teams and new rules and increased opportunity to witness the action through live streaming.
It may have just wrapped up, but like many others, I can’t wait for the next Bowls Premier League!