DEFENDING champions Leif Selby and Karen Murphy will find the going tough when they defend their titles at Australian Indoor championships starting Monday at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club.
Murphy is seeking a third consecutive victory in the prestigious indoor event but has been handed a tough draw in the first round where she will line up against 2008 runner-up Therese Hastings.
Murphy, who is in Malaysia this week with the Australian squad, beat Hastings 11-5 11-5 in last year's final but this clash is sure to test both players.
The ladies draw has an impressive array of talent including Tasmanian Singles winner Rebecca Quail, 2008 Australian Indoor semi-finalists Katrina Wright and Lindsey Armitage, Australian squad member Sharyn Renshaw, Australian Open winner Kelsey Cottrell and local champion Carmen Anderson.
The men's draw is also full of quality competitors with Selby, due to return from Malaysia tomorrow, handed a tough assignment in the first round.
The World Bowls Indoor Champion will take on South Australian Scott Taylor who got the better of Selby in the Australian Open and won the recent Adelaide Masters.
The winner of their match will likely win through to the semi-finals where they could face teenage sensation Dylan Fisher.
Fisher, 15, is no stranger to the big-time bowls arena having made it to the final of this year's Yallourn Classic Singles event. The young Victorian, who claimed Steve Glasson's scalp in the early rounds, was beaten in the final by Barrie Lester.
Fisher will take on former Warilla Bowls manager Ian 'Rocky' Stone in the opening round in what shapes as a baptism of fire on the indoor carpet.
The men's event is wide open with many great names competing and trying to pick winners even in the first round is difficult with some mouth-watering matches including experienced indoor specialist Trevor Broadbent up against BA silver tier member Ashley Klose, Mark Jacobsen versus young Queensland qualifier Ben Cribben while Australian Open winner Brett Wilkie lines up against WA state representative Tristan Smallacombe.
Former international David Holt is expected to win through to the second round where he could face young Victorian star Neville Rodda in a clash well worth watching.
Rodda is been groomed for bigger and better things but Holt is the one to watch and is my dark horse selection to reach the final.
Only 10 players have ever won the men's Australian Indoor Championship in the 21 years since the event was first staged in 1988.
Victorian Dennis Dalton won the inaugural even while Queensland's Alex Mathews won in 1989.
Other winners are Rex Johnston (90, 00), Trevor Morris (91), Dennis Katunarich (92), Ian Taylor (93), Glasson (94, 97-99, 01-05), Ian Schuback (95, 96), Kelvin Kerkow (06, 07) and Selby (08).
The Championship commences Monday from 8am with a field of 32 men and 32 ladies.
Wednesday's semi-finals are to be televised with the ladies and men's finals to be played Thursday.