The Ovens and Murray A1 weekend pennant season begins on Saturday. Commonwealth Games gold medallist and Corowa RSL bowler Josh Thornton and The Border Mail’s Beau Greenway take a close look at each club’s chances.
Last season: Premier
Gains: Gary Downie
Losses: Tony Williams, Damien O’Connor
Club comment: Matt Robertson – The club will be competitive and see Wodonga as the team to beat.
Player to watch: Gary Downie – Has returned to the region from up north. His last stint in the Murray Bowls Division saw him win premierships and region titles and he will strengthen an already strong Benalla side.
Prediction: 1st – With Gary Downie joining the club to offset the couple of departures, Benalla has the ability to go back-to-back in the A1 competition.
Last season: A2 premier
Gains: Craig Campbell, Albert Critchlow (Rutherglen), Klive Liverton (Moama)
Club comment: John Payne – With the latest additions to the club, Chiltern will look to be competitive and avoid relegation after being promoted.
Player to watch: Neil Pryor – Has been a good bowler in the Ovens and Murray for a long time, but this will be his first opportunity to play in the top division.
Prediction: 7th – Chiltern has worked for years to finally win an A2 premiership and get their first crack at A1. The latest recruits plus experience in John Payne and Neil Pryor should see them avoid relegation.
Last season: 3rd
Gains: Tony Barron (Corowa RSL)
Losses: Max Scanlan, Bill Davidson
Club comment: Thomas Webb – We would like to finish in the top-four at the end of the regular season to give us a shot at a premiership.
Player to watch: Ryan Davies – Will skip at A1 level for the first time in the Ovens and Murray and will be out to cement himself as one of the premier bowlers in the competition.
Prediction: 5th – The strong Corowa side has lost a couple of good players in Max Scanlan and Bill Davidson which may hurt the side, but it gives opportunities to Ryan Davies, Tommy Hines and Danny Webb to step up.
Last season: 7th
Gains: John Harrison (Holbrook), Bill James, Debbie Crothers, Ron Keen
Club comment: Don Driver – It’s going to be tough to remain competitive and we hope to remain in the A1 competition. The quick carpet has been a good home green advantage.
Player to watch: Rob Bartel – Has finally earned himself an Ovens and Murray representative spot and is the club’s barometer for the campaign.
Prediction: 6th – It was great to see Kiewa earn promotion last year as a smaller Ovens and Murray club. They caught a couple clubs out early on their home greens, but most will be better prepared this season which may make it a tough year. They should still avoid relegation.
Last season: 5th
Gains: Mark Bell (Frankston), Tom Morrow, Peta Mattys, Greg Braden
Losses: Gary Brimblecombe
Club comment: Greg McDonald – The club should improve with the new recruits. They believe they can make the finals again.
Player to watch: Ethan Fruend – The son of a great Ovens and Murray footballer has turned his attention to bowls. Whilst he isn’t in the A1 side at present, the club is very optimistic about his potential and he should make it into the top grade by the end of the season.
Prediction: 4th – One of the stronger and consistent clubs of the Ovens and Murray who missed the finals last year. Gary Brimblecombe is a big loss, but with regulars such as Ian Brimblecombe and Maurie Braden, along with the new recruits, the club could figure in the finals this year.
Last season: Runner-up
Gains: Mason Bayliss (Beechworth), Darren Millar (Ballarat), Chris Prudden
Club comment: Paul Davies – We should make the top-four and once you do that you know it’s a different competition and anything can happen.
Player to watch: Kylie Whitehead – The current national singles champion is one of the most promising female bowlers in the country. Misses the first game due to the national Champion of Champions.
Prediction: 2nd – The perennial powerhouse of the Ovens and Murray should always factor into finals calculations. With the addition of Mason Bayliss and Darren Millar and the improvement of Josh Rudd and Kylie Whitehead, Wodonga can make the grand final again and challenge Benalla.
Last season: 6th
Losses: Melissa Roberts, Sam Beaton
Club comment: Tim Cromie – The club might struggle this year. Without picking up any players and losing a couple, the depth of the club will be tested.
Player to watch: Tyson Cromie – After claiming the national under 18 pairs championship last week the young star will look to take another step in the Ovens and Murray. Will be a chance to skip a rink.
Prediction: 8th – Despite the massive upside of Tyson and Koby Cromie, the club may find it hard to be competitive and remain in A1.
Last season: 4th
Losses: Rod Jones
Club comment: Anne Miles – The club will be aiming for the finals again and hopes to improve on fourth place from last year.
Player to watch: Jimmy Lefevre – A talented young player who has the ability to beat anyone on his day.
Prediction: 3rd – The club has the star power to improve with Anne Miles, Les Spencer and Garry Sanders to combine with Jimmy Lefevre to get the side into a preliminary final.
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