Broadbeach Bowler Ryan Bester is one of the top names in the Bowls Premier League.
Broadbeach Bowler Ryan Bester is one of the top names in the Bowls Premier League. Trevor Veale

Franchises vie for premier purse

THE game's showpiece event, Bowls Premier League, began yesterday with interstate and international bowlers in eight franchises vying for the hefty purse.

Play at Brisbane club Pine Rivers runs until Friday and is televised live nightly.

This year, the rich competition's tenth, has three new teams - Adelaide Pioneers, Melbourne Pulse and Tweed Ospreys. They join the Brisbane Pirates, Melbourne Rays, Murray Steamers, Perth Suns and Sydney Lions.

The competition, a modified version of the traditional game with lightning-fast matches, is seen as bowls' answer to Twenty20 cricket. Each of the eight teams plays each other twice in the 14 rounds. At the end of these, the top four teams will play off in Friday night's finals.

Master bowler Alex Marshall (Scotland) is back with the Brisbane Pirates; Northern Ireland's Gary Kelly is with Melbourne Pulse, Canadian Ryan Bester with the Murray Steamers. Ballina product Aaron Teys spearheads the Tweed Ospreys while International Bowler of the Year Aron Sherriff returns to the Sydney Lions, the team with which he won three Premier League finals.

These are just a few of the galaxy of stars that make the Premier League the pinnacle of our sport.

World champions

TWO little -known Australians - Kylie Whitehead (Wodonga) and Victorian Lee Schraner - are world singles champions after a thrilling day of the world champion of champions finals in Adelaide.

Whitehead, who trailed New Zealand's Debbie White 1-7 after five ends of the second set, managed to force a 9-8 tiebreak and then take the title.

Schraner took on Hong Kong's Tony Cheung in the men's final. In this, Cheung won six of the nine ends in the first set but Schraner limited him to singles before winning it 7-6. Cheung fought back in the second set, winning it and forcing a tiebreak which Schraner won and with it the highly-prized championship.

Ultimate challenge

THE Ultimate Bowls Challenge, a new concept with a massive total $500,000 prizemoney, is another event that lives up to its stated aim of being fast and full of fun. With a slightly confusing points system but a heap of the world's best bowlers, is still makes absorbing television and surely convinces many people that our game has as much excitement as any sport.

One of the $60,000 finals, at Melbourne club Deer Park between Dandenong and The Point teams, provided bowls of absolute brilliance. There's another final at Moama next month. If it's as good as this one, it'll be something well worth watching.

Working class

WINNERS of the women's inaugural weekend pennants - introduced this year to cater for workers who can't join in the traditional mid-week play - was won by West Tamworth. It was a close affair with the Tamworth team beating Sydney's St Johns Park 19-17.

In the semi-finals West Tamworth clobbered Bomaderry 18-7 while the Sydney side had a similarly decisive 23-10 win over Windang.

Rice retires

KNOWN affectionately in bowls circles as Lurch, 40-year-old Nathan Rice, of Gold Coast club Helensvale, has announced his retirement from international play. It will be effective from the end of the 2019 Multi-Nationals to be played on November 18-24.

Rice, one of the mainstays of Helensvale, has represented his country 271 times in 16 years. His successes include four Commonwealth Games medals, two world championships and gold from three Asia Pacific championships.

Originally from Launceston, Tasmania, he made his debut for Australia against Wales in 2004.

Rice says his decision to bow out of the green and gold is to allow him more time with his wife and two children.

MY VIEW . . . ON INTERNATIONAL RETIREMENT

THE decision of long-time Australian rep Nathan Rice to give up representing his country comes on top of that of Karen Murphy, a similar fixture in the national side, who also retired from international play in recent days.

Between them, this pair has represented Australia 917 times - 646 Murphy, 271 Rice.

They can't be giving up international play because of age - Rice is 40, Murphy 44. They have years of active participation left in them, particularly as our sport is less demanding than others more vigorous.

They join several top bowlers over recent years who have taken the same step of giving up on international play.

The monetary reward for Australia's rep bowlers comes nowhere near the motza paid in some of the other major sports. Real money in bowls is in the rich tournaments. There's no indication that our stars are turning down representing their country to allow them access to this bounty but the number rejecting the greatest sports honour makes us wonder.

Border battle

AN IDEA seeded 24 months ago has germinated into what Queenslanders say generates excitement throughout the state. It's the North-South Challenge between teams selected by drawing a line horizontally across Queensland - 12 men and women players in each team.

Play on the second year of the competition was in Townsville and resulted in a win for the southerners.

"It was just as thrilling as last year's event,” says a Townsville spokesman. "It continues to be a great step forward for bowls in this state.”



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