Juniors set to sizzle

by admin

The time-honoured Australian Under-18 Championships, staged over four-action packed days at Sorrento Bowling Club from Monday, September 30, provides the perfect platform for 80 of bowls’ brightest stars to shine on the nation’s biggest stage, with more than just gold medals on the line as the traditionally coveted affair ignites under the scorching Perth sun. Having rotated around the nation in recent years, it seems fitting that this year the Sandgropers host the most prestigious event on the junior calendar, after a spectacularly stunning performance on the Apple Isle 12 months ago that saw them clinch two gold, two silver and two bronze medals from the eight disciplines on offer, earning the state the acclaimed overall boys’ and girls’ and the revered Robert Middleton Overall Champions Trophy. As a result of the sublime performance, which marked the first occasion Western Australia has won the overall boys and overall champions trophies, the Black Swans will carry the early ascendancy going into the tournament this year, but with eight positional changes among their 10-strong line-up, the hopes of the host state now rest with a new brigade of junior stars, who are no doubt eager to impress the national selection panel on home soil and live up to the standards already set by their peers. The eight Australian Under-18 Championships debutants making their mark this year will be guided by the experienced hands of David Downey, who claimed gold medals in the singles and triples disciplines last year, and Elizabeth Allen, who has been tasked with the blue-ribbon singles and leading the pairs this time around. In the boys’ event, Downey may have scaled the lofty heights of the tournament to secure the prized singles gold medallion and in doing so follow in the foot steps of some of the sport’s greatest athletes, namely Cameron Curtis, Mark Casey, and Dylan Fisher, but he faces steep competition to become the third male to go back-to-back in the discipline’s history this year. Tasmania’s giant-slaying Michael Sims, who claimed the scalp of arguably the sport’s most in-form player and reigning dual international bowler of the year, Aron Sherriff, in the main draw of the Australian Open last February, headlines the Tigers hopes of success, while NSW young-gun Dylan Skinner appears on the verge of greatness after an Australian Indoor Championships quarter-final appearance two years ago, and a second place finish to Downey at the juniors event last year. Also looming dangerously in the draw are ACT dynamo Trent Britton, who skipped his state to their sole gold medal in the boys’ fours 12 months ago, and fellow Australian Under-18 squad member Braiden Leese, from Queensland. The girls’ singles could prove to be a more even affair, with the Blues’ Ellen Ryan likely to start as the early favourite going into the event, after a triples gold medal win last year, alongside the Big V’s Chloe Stewart, who finished just shy of a ribbon last year, while the home-ground advantage will prove beneficial for Allen, who took home the pairs gold medal two years ago at Darebin. Likewise, the pairs discipline has opened up this year, with the boys’ gold and silver placed Queensland and ACT fielding new line-ups due to top-age players advancing, with Nic Gosley and Flynn O’Shaughnessy now steering the reins, while only Western Australia’s Allen remains from the top placed Queensland and WA girls teams. In the triples, Downey will once again lead his charges into battle on the hunt for more silverware, but will be paired with Wesley Neilson and Dan Nicholls up front in this year’s competition, but the trio can expect tough encounters against the likes of Jono Davis, Luke Jones and Corey Wedlock. Whilst in the girls side of the draw, NSW’s Samantha Noronha, Ellen Ryan and Natalie Noronha have earned the right to defend their title and loom as the standout choice to go back-to-back, with the Blues 5-strong girls team the only side in the competition …