AUSTRALIA’S bowls team for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games will boast a mix of youth and experience, with six Games debutantes among the 17 bowlers named by Commonwealth Games Australia – including former Shoalhaven Heads bowler Karen Murphy.
The team announcement took place at Darebin International Sports Centre, the venue of the bowls component of the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth Games where the Australian Jackaroos enjoyed its most successful games campaign in history.
The 17-person squad is made up of five men and five women in the open able-bodied category, and another seven in the para-sport team; including two vision impaired bowlers, accompanied by their directors, and three bowlers with a disability.
Among those selected for maiden games campaigns are two reigning world champions in the open category, in Aaron Wilson (26, Cabramatta, NSW) and recently crowned Tasmanian athlete of the year award winner Rebecca Van Asch (29, Invermay, TAS).
Additionally, four of the five para-sport athletes will compete in their inaugural games, including bowlers with a disability Josh Thornton (36, East Shepparton, VIC) and Ken Hanson (68, City Colac, VIC) and both vision-impaired pairs competitors Jake Fehlberg (23, Burleigh Heads, QLD, Director: Grant Fehlberg) and Lynne Seymour (67, Thuringowa, QLD, Director: Robert Seymour).
Reigning world singles champion Karen Murphy (42), who clinched a games gold medal in the pairs in 2006 in addition to silver medals in 1998 in the fours, 2002 in the singles and 2014 in the triples, has been selected for her fifth games appearance; equalling Rex Johnston OAM for the most amount of Games appearances from an Australian bowler.
In addition to Van Asch and Murphy, the women's team boasts three-time world champion Natasha Scott (27, Raymond Terrace, NSW), Australia's number one female bowler Carla Krizanic (27, Sunbury, VIC) and international stalwart Kelsey Cottrell (27, St Johns Park, NSW), who has enjoyed a stunning 12-year career after becoming the youngest Australian representative in history as a 15 year-old.
Joining Wilson in the men's squad is Australia's number one male bowler Barrie Lester (35, Mulgrave Country Club, VIC), and a trio of Gold Coasters in Australian Jackaroos vice-captain Brett Wilkie (44, Club Helensvale, QLD), four-time Bowls Australia international bowler of the year Aron Sherriff (32, Club Helensvale, QLD) and Nathan Rice (38, Club Helensvale, QLD).
The only para-sport player to have been chosen for a consecutive Games appearance is Tony Bonnell (50, Brighton, QLD).
Commonwealth Games Australia Chef de Mission for Gold Coast 2018 Steve Moneghetti said he was excited by the high calibre of athletes named in the bowls team.
“As Chef de Mission of the Australian Team it is always wonderful to welcome athletes competing in their first Commonwealth Games onto the team,” Moneghetti said.
“It is great to see six Commonwealth Games debutants as part of this bowls team, and I am sure those athletes will benefit from the wealth of experience on the team led by Karen Murphy who will be competing at her fifth games.
“Our bowlers really turned it on for the home crowd in Melbourne 2006 and we hope the home crowd on the Gold Coast can lift this team to another great result,” Moneghetti said.
Head Coach Steve Glasson OAM said his squad would look to build on the nation’s performance at recent Games, and aimed to replicate the heroics of their past two world championships campaigns, where they enjoyed their best ever performance in 2012 and most successful campaign abroad in 2016.
“The Australian team have had a successful three years or so on the international arena since our last Games, but we know that the competition at this event is always extremely fierce and we will need to be at the top of our game in order to fend of a number of other international powerhouses,” Glasson said.
"It's pleasing to see a number of players afforded the opportunity to contest their first games; we feel it's the right mix of supremely talented debutantes and seasoned campaigners that will give the nation its best chance at success.
"We must also acknowledge the contribution of a number of athletes who weren’t fortunate enough to hear their name called out here today, it must be difficult for many Jackaroos players to hear the names of close friends and teammates read out, but not their own.
"The calibre of the players that weren’t selected is indicative of how strong this team is and how difficult was to choose the final team members."
Testament to the generational change of bowls in recent times, the average age of the open contingent is just 32 years of age, comprising of a women’s side with a mean of 30, and a men’s team with a median of 35.
Bowls is a core sport of the Commonwealth Games, and has been included in the sporting programme since the inaugural Games in 1930, with the exception of 1966 in Kingston, Jamaica.
Australia’s bowlers have won nine gold, nineteen silver and ten bronze medals since 1930, with women not playing until 1982.
The Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games bowls event will be held over nine of the eleven days of competition, from April 5 to 13.
Commonwealth Games Australia will announce the open team's positions closer to the Games, with each player to contest two of the eight disciplines, of singles, pairs, triples and fours for each gender.
This announcement caps off another strong year for three-time world champion Murphy, who has already won two gold medals at the Gold Coast Multi-Nations and helped Australia defeat New Zealand in a Trans Tasman Test series, while also being a current member of the Australian Jackaroos squad
Australian Commonwealth Games bowls women's team: Kelsey Cottrell, Carla Krizanic, Karen Murphy, Natasha Scott and Rebecca Van Asch.
Australian Commonwealth Games bowls men's team: Barrie Lester, Nathan Rice, Aron Sherriff, Brett Wilkie and Aaron Wilson.
Australian Commonwealth Games bowls Para-sport team:
Athletes with a disability triples: Tony Bonnell, Ken Hanson and Joshua Thornton.
Vision-impaired pairs: Jake Fehlberg (director: Grant Fehlberg) and Lynne Seymour (director: Robert Seymour).