2022-23 State Championships Singles Wrap
Article by Ben Krikstolaitis
It’s fairly unique to have the blue-ribbon event of a sport to be held as the opener, and after the display of bowls we witnessed over the first three days of the State Championships it could not have been a better start to the event. Magnificent bowls, fantastic clubs and contests that would have to be seen to be believed.
We often mention the “State’s Best Bowlers” taking part in the event as if it’s a passing comment, but we genuinely witnessed the best in action across our three host venues. The members of the bowls community that have played over the last few days are the elite of our sport and would not look out of place on any world stage. New South Wales has a lot to be proud of, supplying over 60% of Australia’s Jackaroos and with a crop like this year’s players to choose from, no one could wonder why.
To the games themselves, we played five different disciplines of singles competition over the opening days of the State Championship Finals – State Men’s, State Women’s, Senior Men’s, Senior Women’s and Open Reserve. It took three clubs along with dozens of volunteer markers, scorers and umpires. Congratulations to all the volunteers and support staff on a great championship opener.
Open Reserve Singles
The qualifiers of this competition showed up strongly early with the only woman in the open competition, Kate Carriage (Nowra), winning all three games in her section to fire her way to the semi-final.
Section two’s eventual winner, David Kahlfeldt (Engadine) impressed his large crowd of supporters with three strong wins in a tough section. Similarly, Wayne Ede (West Pennant Hills Sports) won through with three wins albeit with closer margins and a winning aggregate of 8 shots.
The final section, Nathan Kent from Campbelltown won through on shot difference after finishing level with Jeffrey Nolan (Bangalow) on two wins. A 25-11 final round loss for Jeffrey to Tony Parkes from West Wyalong proved crucial, giving Nathan the superior shot margin to top the section.
The semi-finals were set. Kate Carriage to take on David Kahlfeldt and Wayne Ede to face off against Nathan Kent. None of the players had it all their own way. Having shifted to the finals venue of Figtree Sports from their sectional play venues, it took a few ends for the players to adjust. The player that adjusted the best would do better and so it would seem, Kate winning her way though and so did Wayne.
The final started on the number 2 rink closest to the club entrance. The early ends were close with Wayne Ede finding the advantage but then Kate Carriage kicked away. She scored several multiples and showed her strength and obvious skill with an incredible display of bowls to win the match 25-10.
Our first new State Champion of the Day; Kate Carriage in the Open Reserve Singles! A worthy winner and the first woman to win the Open Reserve singles.
Women’s Senior Singles
In section one of this competition there was no doubt of the winner, Christine Myers (South Tamworth) dominated the section with three wins and a huge 41 point shot margin. Section two’s Wendy Clarke (Ballina) showed similar dominance with three wins and a 31 point margin on top of the ladder.
Section three was closer with Leba Yatevatu (St Georges Basin), one of the truly beautiful souls in lawn bowls, tying with Deborah Murray (NBC Sports) and Joy Scott (Merimbula), each with two wins. Joy’s superior margin was enough to take her through to the semi-finals.
Joan Thomas of Forster won through in section four with two wins and a bye and was looking strong going into the finals.
The semi-finals arrived at Figtree Sports and went the way of Joan Thomas (Forster) and Wendy Clarke (Ballina). Both players were coming into great form as they won 25 shots to 15, setting up an enticing final.
The match lived up to the hype and was a cracker with both women on 17 shots at one point as they crept towards the 25 needed to win the game. In the end it was Joan Thomas of Forster winning her way through in a close game. Joan’s support crowd saluting her victory loudly from the sidelines.
Joan’s win is well deserved and adds to the long list of Forster bowlers that have come home with silverware.
Men’s Senior Singles
This year’s Men’s Senior Singles champion had an extra incentive to take the title which may have proved the difference, but more on that later!
In Section One, Greg Laws (Carlingford) kicked off his campaign with three wins and a big margin. 2021 State Senior Singles Runner-Up Bernie Melville (Alexandria-Erskineville) did it a bit harder in his section with a win by margins to make it to the semi-finals.
Kris Lehfeldt from Pottsville had a good run into the finals winning three games to make it through as did Mark Blackwood from Mona Vale, showing some good form to make it through a tough section that included KENO NSW Senior Blues representative Ken Snowdon (Merimbula), Greg Brims (Westport) and Phil Westcott (Ettalong Memorial).
In the first semi-final Bernie Melville flexed hard with a huge win over Greg Laws despite his strong showing in the sections. It was a harder game for Kris Lehfeldt, narrowly winning his semi-final game 25-21 against Mark Blackwood.
The final kicked off as we expected, a see-sawing affair. Spectators witnessed a remarkable run of ends where Bernie would be holding big multiples only to be dragged back with rescuing bowls by Kris. A brilliantly even game the whole way until Kris managed to score the final shots to take the crown as the Senior Men’s Singles champion.
In an interesting twist, back in 1993 Kris had played to win in the Men’s State Singles at Figtree Sports and lost. Thirty years later he was able to receive redemption, claim a trophy and finally be crowned state champion.
Women’s State Singles
There was a similar storyline popping up through sectional play in the Women’s State Singles. Three of the semi-finalists absolutely powered through their sections. The phenomenal Natasha Van Eldik (Raymond Terrace) recorded three wins and a 61 point margin. Local Favourite and Scottish International Kay Moran (Figtree Sports) managed three wins and a 28 point margin and Jessie Cottell (Cabramatta) produced three wins with a 41 point margin.
Much closer was section one with Joanne Cattley (Milton-Ulladulla) playing Melinda Blumor (Engadine) with both of them on two wins each. Those present stood and watched the final end of this match which was long and close and exactly what we like to see as lovers of our sport. Melinda winning 25-24 after Joanne just missed her last shot in a ripper of a game.
The semi-final for Melinda Blumor proved a difficult task as Jessie Cottell dialed-in the weight and nailed the lines on the half-green in front of the Figtree pavilion, comprehensively winning her way through to the final.
The semi-final between home-town favourite Kay Moran and Jackaroo Natasha Van Eldik was much closer. The game see-sawed through momentum swings and incredible draw bowling that would make any bowls purist happy. On the final end, at 23 to 24 in favour of Kay, Natasha was able to hold the final two shots to win and make it to the final. It was an absolutely epic and tiring match.
The final started with Jessie Cottell kicking away to an early lead and Natasha Van Eldik trying to keep pace. But then the momentum swung back to Tash and the scores drew even. Even is where it would stay until Jess was able to land the killer blow to be crowned the Women’s State Singles champion for 2022/2023.
An amazing first time winner and a ticket to the Asutralian Championships in Western Australia for Jessie Cottell.
Men’s State Singles
Section one can be summed up by a simple sentence; Peter Taylor (Alstonville) won. He just won, with a constant display of every conceivable shot to win his section.
It was much more difficult in sections two and three with Jono Davis (Nelson Bay) and Jay Breust (Malua Bay) winning through on margins.
Jack Lewis (Engadine) in section four had a great run with three wins with a margin of 41 and a berth in the semi-finals.
Jay Breust has a massive reputation on the South Coast and a well-deserved one, but he seemed to be out of sorts in his semi-final, unable to find his rhythm and eventually going down to Jack Lewis. Jack was clinical throughout the match, making his way to the final in fine fashion.
Peter Taylor, meanwhile, showed again why he is a powerhouse of a bowler and earning a final berth with a good, measured win over Jono Davis. Peter can play the full array of shots available to a bowler and was showing it here in the championships and proved it by winning this game against a tough opponent.
The final was set to be an epic and an epic it was. Both players giving nothing away. End after end of singles until it came to the championship ends. Peter Taylor looked like he had it sewn up with a 24 to 19 lead after a brilliant four shot end. Jack Lewis had to be perfect – and he was.
A quick couple of winning ends brought the scores to 24 – 23 and the final end to win it. Jack moved around the head, bowls came close and were clattered away. Peter’s final bowl just missed the target and the win was Jack’s.
Jack Lewis from Engadine won the game and the championship in as epic a final as you’ll ever see. Another champion from a brilliant championship singles event.
There’s still a long way to go in these State Championships, and if the singles is an indicator of the standard we can expect, then we can expect a lot.
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Well done to all of our new champions, all well deserved.