State Champions Week 2020 may be over, but not for long, we’ll be back in May.

by Melanie Allen

State Champions week at City Bowls Club in Warrnambool got off to a flying start last Sunday 10th January, after being postponed and re-scheduled numerous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eight months late, at a new venue, and with an additional three event categories, we had over 500 bowlers fighting it out for titles.

It’s 11.15pm on Day 1… Sandbelt are playing Gippsland in Rd 2 of the women’s pairs event. The Sandbelt ladies are playing their fourth game of the day. It’s the last end and Gippsland are five shots up. Sandbelt’s Courtney Gabb sends down her bowl and kills the end, keeping them in game. The extra ends gets underway and Sandbelt’s Kelly McKerihen puts down her second last bowl, moves the kitty with precision, and they now find themselves holding four. Although they didn’t make the extra two shots to win with their last bowl, it was an amazing effort. The outstanding Gippsland pair of Gail McKenzie and Jan Morton went on to earn Runner’s Up in the Grand Final.

“Myself and my team were honoured to be a part of 10 games for the week. Yes, for those playing at home, we had long days, but it made for certain all our COVID walks paid off”, said Courtney Gabb.

All the City Bowls Club volunteers were so helpful all week.

That was only day 1, and those final few ends of the day, late into the evening, set the scene for the rest of the week, culminating in the mixed pairs final. That mixed pairs game was next level excitement as far as our sport goes, and the spectators were left in awe. Go and watch the live stream replay for a lesson in what it takes to win a title! After on of their medal presentations Gabb went on to say, “We can’t thank the BV staff enough for their tireless efforts to ensure we got to play State Champions Week. Eight months in the making meant a new look schedule and venue, but City Bowls Club Warrnambool sure know how to impress a crowd. BV ensured the schedule was safe and met COVID restriction standards at the time the re-schedule dates first got released. What an exciting way to start our 2021 bowls season, with a taster of the 19/20 champions. Bring on state champs week 2021!”

One of the most common phrases heard from the local spectators during the week was, “the guy from Bendigo East can bowl!” That guy of course was World Champion Lee Schraner. Lee had a busy schedule, playing in the Singles, Men’s Pairs and Mixed Pairs. Another competitor who found himself playing four games a day, his efforts earnt him Gold medals in both the Men’s Singles and Men’s Pairs. His Singles title came at 11.30pm, after a massive 4-game day of world-class bowls that were just epic to watch. Again, check out the live stream replay for some goosebump moments.

Courtney’s sentiments were shared by so many of the players, who made it clear during the medal presentations. When given the chance to address the audience, they reiterated how grateful they were for the wonderful facilities at City Bowls Club, and the efforts by BV and City Bowls Club staff, and in particular the dozens of volunteers who worked tirelessly all week.

The morning BBQ crew – the egg & bacon rolls were a hit!

We can’t end this article without praising the amazing work by Tournament Director and former BV President, Barb Gilbert. Her dedication to the event and the players was recognised by all who came into contact with her during the week. Her skill at managing over 500 players, dozens of whom were playing in multiple events over many days, meant draw scheduling had to be done on the fly and fit within the available rink space as well as work in with our live streaming endeavours. Barb, we thank you!

We will continue to upload event photos to our Facebook galleries.

The calibre of bowls being played and the skill of our bowlers was testament to the fantastic media coverage the event received all over Victoria.

News clippings courtesy of: Shepparton News, Bendigo Advertiser, Warrnambool Standard, Ballarat Courier and The Border Mail.