Baker spearheads Australian Open victory
NSW’s Andrew Rees and Brendon Baker staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory to claim one of the sport’s most sought after titles, and the $8,000 cheque that accompanies it, at the Southern Hemisphere’s richest bowls event yesterday. The Hunter Valley pair’s five day campaign came to a stunning conclusion on Thursday afternoon at the $140,000 Australian Open, which was staged at Melbourne’s Darebin International Sports Centre from February 16 to 20. The duo progressed to the gold medal decider on the back of five empathic victories, including an impressive 18-4 round two win over local Victorian hopefuls Scott Guymer and Michael Stanley – who had only just eliminated Australian Jackaroos pair Matthew Flapper and Aron Sherriff in the first rubber. Their march to the top also included a quarter-final victory against Victorian representative Brett Foley and last year’s pairs finalist Adam Galloway, and a nail biting 11-10 semi-final finish against current world champion Wayne Ruediger and Australian Premier League’s Adelaide Endurance star Scott Thulborn, both from South Australia. Facing off against Victoria’s duo Graeme Spry and Ray Jansen, Rees and Baker, from Kurri Kurri Bowlng Club, took a while to acclimatise to the big stage, falling away to a 1-5 deficit early and then trailed 7-10 at the mid way point, before launching their attack. Three shots on the ninth end had them back on level pegging, before a mammoth count of 5 on the eleventh end saw them hit the lead, 15-11. With their foot planted firmly to the floor, Baker, whose previous greatest achievement was a semi-final finish at the 2011 Australian Indoor Championships, guided his teammate to a further 7 shots over the last three ends to record to a 22-11 victory, the biggest margin of any of the Open’s main draw finals matches. Caption: Kurri Kurri’s Andrew Rees and Brendon Baker became the tenth winner of the Australian Open men’s pairs, a victory that made them $8,000 richer.