Fresh faces and approach for Australian lawn bowls
The Australian Lawn Bowls team was announced on Tuesday, unveiling fresh faces and reigning medallists set to take on the world’s best at GC2018.
The 17-member squad included six debutantes and was picked after months of training camps, test events and sport psychology sessions.
At just 27, GC2018 will be Kelsey Cottrell’s third Games, after medalling in Delhi and Glasgow and she has seen firsthand how the sport has evolved.
She played her first game of bowls at 12. At the time, Cottrell shared the view that Lawn Bowls was ‘an old people’s sport’.
Her mum would take her to her local bowls club after tennis lessons, and it took some convincing to get Cottrell onto the green.
“I used to make her get to bowls really early so I could hit my tennis ball against the club house, because I didn’t want to have anything to do with bowls,” Cottrell told GC2018.com.
“Eventually someone said do you want to have a go. I saw a couple of other kids playing. I think if I hadn’t seen those other kids playing I would have been like ‘oh no, no thanks’, but when I saw them having a go I thought that’s really cool, I could have a play with them.”
Cottrell made her international debut when she was 15.
During a decade long stint in the Australian team, Cottrell has witnessed the sport change dramatically.
She logs her training through an app, which is accessed by her coaches, and gym sessions and training camps are all part of being an elite bowler.
“It’s pretty cool when we go away to camps and we have psychologists come and talk to us, and people who come and talk to us about our nutrition and fitness regimes, so it’s really cool to be exposed to that,” she said.
“Years ago that wouldn’t have been considered a priority for bowls, but I suppose the reality is we are out there playing for sometimes 12 hours a day and we’re literally lunging. You know, you go to the gym and do 50 lunges and we come to bowls and we might do 300.”
Fellow GC2018 teammate Karen Murphy made her Commonwealth Games debut in 1998 and she has also seen the shift in both perception and the way the game is played at the top.
With four Commonwealth Games medals and 10 world championship medals to her name, Murphy is a veteran of the sport.
“It is certainly different to where I started,” she said.
“When I first came into the Australian team, we used to rely on natural ability more than anything, but now with training, gym work, we work a lot on the mental aspect of the game.”
According to Murphy, trends, pop culture and exposure through events like the Commonwealth Games have all played a part in raising the profile of the sport.
“We are stereotyped as an older person game and you come to training and the Australian bowls team you say wow, it isn’t what I expected,” she said.
“The movie Crackerjack certainly helped and barefoot bowls has helped the profile.
“It is probably stereotyped to be quiet and an older crowd. It’ll be a madhouse [at the Broadbeach Bowls Club for GC2018], the stands will be full, the Aussie supporters will be loud, the English will also be here in full voice, I think people will be surprised how rowdy it is.
“The Gold Coast Commonwealth Games will really showcase our sport. It’s out in the sun, the beach is down the road, you can play barefoot bowls and come and have a beer, and then if you want to get more serious you can sign up for your local club.”
Cottrell thinks it’s the sport’s accessibility and universal appeal that has led to its increasing popularity.
With Jake Fehlberg the youngest member of the team at 23, and Lynne Seymour (67) and Ken Hanson (68) the most senior, it’s one sport where success isn’t limited by age – on either end of the spectrum - which makes it even more exciting.
“Once upon a time it was seen as such an older person’s sport and now it’s sort of a sport for everyone, all age groups,” Cottrell said.
“There’s five-year-olds playing and 95-year-olds playing, it’s a sport for everyone.
“There’s a lot more colour and a lot more flair, especially at things like the Commonwealth Games where there’ll be music playing, big grandstands up and things like that so I think that would surprise people to see that and have that atmosphere at bowls.”
While the Australian team will have the home green advantage on the Gold Coast, the 17-strong contingent will be up against tough competition from all over the Commonwealth.
Reigning Commonwealth pairs champion and singles bronze medallist, South Africa’s Colleen Piketh, told GC2018.com that the close competition will make the action one of the highlights of the Games for spectators.
“Contrary to what has been spoken about lawn bowls in the past, it’s not old man marbles anymore,” she said.
“There’s a lot more excitement, a lot more noise on the green. It’s a very tactical game, so there’s a lot of thinking that goes on, preparation and tactics and those kinds of things.
“I think as a spectator sport, the more the media gets involved the better, to actually show people it’s not just the boring old roll-a-bowl and see who gets closest to the jack.”
Australian GC2018 Lawn Bowls team
Rebecca Van Asch
Athletes with a disability triples:
Jake Fehlberg (Director: Grant Fehlberg)
Lynne Seymour (Director: Robert Seymour)
During GC2018, the serene setting of the Broadbeach Bowls Club will transform into a fiery arena where those who can handle the pressure best will prevail.
You could be part of all the excitement and noise at GC2018 Lawn Bowls. The memories will last, but tickets won’t.