Games gold medal drought about to break

THE 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games Lawn Bowls competition commences on Thursday March 16, only 4 weeks from today.

The Australian triples teams of Bill Cornehls, Wayne Turley, Mark Casey and Noi Tucker, Roma Dunn, Ceri Ann Davies will lead off competition on the first two days in round robin play followed by the quarter and semi finals on the weekend and the gold medal final on Monday March 20.

The Australian pairs combinations of Barrie Lester and Nathan Rice and Lynsey Armitage and Karen Murphy will commence sectional play on Saturday through to Monday with the gold medal final on Wednesday March 22.

The Australian singles representatives Kelvin Kerkow and Maria Rigby need to wait till the Tuesday March 21 for the commencement of sectional play with the knockout quarterfinals of Thursday and the semifinals and gold medal final on Friday March 24.

Nine days of competition will see six gold medals on offer at the state lawn bowls centre at Darebin, conducted in accordance with the rules of the World Bowls International federation.

Traditionally Australian teams have struggled to win medals on the slow greens in the Northern Hemisphere Commonwealth Games.

Four years ago in Manchester the greens were untrue and slow made worse by the wet weather. Even the home countries complained about the greens, albeit after the games were over.

This time the Australians are playing on home soil and in front of Australian supporters, which will and should be an advantage over overseas visiting teams.

Australia won one silver medal at Manchester and only two gold medals from the past three Commonwealth Games.

Following the Manchester Games, Bowls Australia developed a high performance program with support and guidance from the Australian Sports Commission.

However the main difference now between the Manchester Games in 2003 and all other past Commonwealth Games is the new sets play format and the introduction of the new conditions of play - no dead ends and the option to give the mat away.

Although the new conditions apply to all teams the element of luck, always a big factor in lawn bowls, especially the last bowl, has now taken on a major role in deciding who wins and loses.

There is no doubt the difference in skill levels between the top lawn bowlers has been the major factor in past Games but over time, bowls countries such as Malaysia and Canadians have matched the established countries, NZ, SA, UK and Australia.

We now have a 2006 Commonwealth Games with new greens, new format, conditions of play and very competitive bowlers from many more countries.

Gold Silver and Bronze Medals now depend more on Lady Luck than on BA, bowls ability!

Two bowl pairs is a short game in itself and a lot depends on the lead getting at least one bowl close especially in sets play format, you really only need to win one set to set up the 3 end tiebreak and then you can toss a coin!

At this stage the final number of competing countries is not finalised and therefore the round robin draw has not been made.

The top four in each of two sections play knockout quarterfinals leading on to the play offs for medals in knockout semifinals and onto the gold medal Play off.

Round robin of possibly 11 matches - finish in the top four and then win three knockout games to win gold.

It all makes for interesting days ahead with the Commonwealth Games only 4 weeks away.

o o o

THIS year Bowls Australia has increased the prize pool of the 2006 Australian Open to $100,000 and has increased the field to 128 for the singles and 64 teams in the pairs and triples.

In a major coup for the sport of bowls, ABC TV has almost doubled its live coverage of the Australian Open in 2006.

Australia's richest bowls event will now provide eight hours of live television as part of five days of extensive national coverage.

As was the case last year, the men's and women's singles finals at the Australian Open will

be telecast live on Saturday 8 April.

The men's pairs final on Thursday 6 April and the women's triples decider on Friday 7 April will be on a delayed broadcast.

ABC TV has also agreed to show highlights of both of the women's and men's singles semifinals on the evenings of 6 and 7 April.

Edited highlights of the finals of the women's pairs and men's triples will also be shown on Saturday 15 April and Saturday 22 April respectively as part of the network's regular weekly bowls programming.

Entries for the qualifying tournament before the 2006 Australian Open closed on Monday.

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