Hunter Valley group claim two of Australia’s most coveted titles

by admin

East Cessnock and Kurri bowlers secured their club’s highest honours in many years last week at the Southern Hemisphere’s most lucrative bowls event, the Australian Open, as the Cessnock Advertiser reports today. East Cessnock quartet Michael Cronin, Simon Mitchell, Brodie Turner and Jon Dimopoulos took out the men’s fours event while Kurri’s Andrew Rees and Brendon Baker staged a thrilling come-from-behind victory to take out the men’s pairs. Held in Victoria at the Darebin International Sports Centre from February 16-20, the Australian Open saw some of the best bowlers in the country and overseas converge for five days of play. This is the fifth time the championships have been held at Darebin, with 352 competitors taking to the greens. The East Cessnock men’s fours line-up consisting of Cronin, Mitchell, Turner and Dimopoulos, qualified for the event after success at the State Championships at Taree in November. They played six knock out rounds to make it to the final, where they defeated South Australian contingent consisting of Matthew Northcott, Simon Dorr, Wayne Ruediger and Scott Thulborn 13-12. The defeat was no easy one, with Ruedger a current Australian Jackaroos representative and world champion, while Thulborn was most valuable player of last November’s $100,000 Australian Premier League. East Cessnock’s Michael Cronin said that team couldn’t be happier with the results (which included a $10,000 prize) and that while they weren’t the favourites to win the title they always knew they had what it takes. “We certainly didn’t go into the competition knowing we would win,” he said. “But you never go in thinking you can’t win. “We were up against some pretty stiff competition, including all the Australian teams as well as groups from Malaysia and Hong Kong. “We knew if we played we could beat anyone but we had to play our best.” The win is the first Australian Open title for East Cessnock Bowling Club since 1981, when Sam Clough was part of a team that won the men’s fours title. Cronin said it is a great feeling to be part of a team with mates, all from the same area. In the men’s pairs, 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 $8000 cheque that accompanies it. The duo’s five-day campaign came to a stunning conclusion on Thursday afternoon after progressing to the gold medal decider on the back of five emphatic 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). In the final they faced off against Victorian duo Graeme Spry and Ray Jansen and things looked grim after falling away to a 1-5 deficit early and then trailing 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 five on the eleventh end saw them hit the lead, 15-11. Baker, whose previous greatest achievement was a semi-final finish at the 2011 Australian Indoor Championships, guided his teammate to a further seven 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. Rees said that they definitely came up against pairs that they weren’t expecting to, but they held their ground right to the end. “We had a pretty cruisy time, with a lot of the big name teams getting knocked out early,” he said. “The semi was definitely our toughest game, but Brendan played his best bowls the whole way through.” Rees said that the win is the highest honour for Kurri Bowling Club in years, following on from Aaron Appleby’s runner-up title at the same event years earlier. The pair is now looking forward to defending the title at next year’s event. Caption: Mitchell, Turner, Dimopoulos, Cronin triumphed in the Australian Open’s inaugural fours …