5-A-Side East Cessnock a huge success
The Helensvale Hawks were the big winners at the inaugural $40,000 Invitation Five-A-Side Club Challenge, played at East Cessnock Bowling Club from April 28 to May 1, as the Cessnock Advertiser reports. One hundred bowlers graced the greens in an outstanding collection of many of the finest bowlers in the land. The format of the five-a-side competition was four sessions per day of pairs/triples, singles/fours, pairs/triples, singles/fours. After three days the top four clubs contested the semi-finals and grand final. After day one the surprise leader was the Gary Willis-coached NSW National Training Centre boys squad of Jono Davis (age 13), Corey Wedlock (17), Ben Twist (23), Chris Herden (23) and Chris Green (25) on 14 points, just in front of Engadine and Cabramatta. Lurking in fourth place was the Gold Coast’s Helensvale Hawks featuring four players with over 500 appearances for Australia between them – namely Brett Wilkie and Nathan Rice (who will both compete at this year’s Commonwealth Games), Mark Casey and Anthony Kiepe. Australian NTC squad member Antony Fantini completed the quintet. Day two saw a little rain and many changes with Helensvale moving to the top of the ladder from the NSW NTC Boys, Taren Point and Belrose. The big mover was the Warilla Gorillas from eighth to fifth and looking ominous. The final qualifying day resulted in a cluttered leaderboard apart from Helensvale and Warilla on 39 and 36 points respectively. Taren Point and the NSW NTC Boys clung to third and fourth on 30 points. Hot on their heels were Cabramatta, Mt Lewis, Engadine and Belrose (all on 29), while Aron Sherriff’s Ettalong side was next on 28. The Australian Commonwealth Games ladies’ side of Kelsey Cottrell, Karen Murphy, Carla Odgers, Natasha Scott and captain Lynsey Clarke finished on a creditable 23 points – the brilliant Cottrell winning four of her six singles matches. “The ladies proved a great boon to the tournament and a wonderful credit to the sport,” Australian selector Sam Clough said. “With an average age of just under 28 they have amassed an aggregate of nearly 1200 Test caps.” Come finals day the star-studded Helensvale Hawks proved too strong for the NSW NTC Boys winning in all four disciplines and advancing to the grand final. The Warilla and Taren Point semi-final was a cliff-hanger with the Gorillas getting up by just three shots with disciplines shared at two apiece. Taren Point’s team included Internationals Wayne Turley, Ali Forsyth (NZ), David Axon (Wales) plus State players Cy Threlfall and John Green. Helensvale always had the edge in the grand final winning the pairs and triples in the first session. Although Warilla’s 20-year-old Aaron Teys beat Brett Wilkie in the singles, Irish international and Australia’s 2012-13-14 world indoor singles champion, Jeremy Henry could not get his team of Jesse Noronha, Jared Hamilton and Jamie Mitchell over the line. Helensvale collected $15,000, Warilla $10,000, Taren Point $5000 and the NSW NTC Boys $5000. Also featuring in the prizemoney was best performed in each discipline outside top four place-getters: singles $500 – Cabramatta (Ray Pearse); pairs $1000 – Mt. Lewis (David and Gary Willis); triples $1,500 – Belrose (Brad Franklin, Shaun Thompson, Steve Rawlings); fours $2000 – Soldiers Point (Daniel Hill, Neville Downes, Jason Pietraszek and Terry Antram). Such was the success of the event, East Cessnock Bowling Club CEO Marlene Hartog and the organising committee are considering increasing next year’s prizemoney to $50,000 with top 10 or 50 per cent of the field receiving prizemoney. With national assistant coach Robbie Dobbins and selector Sam Clough in attendance, players had an opportunity to be seen in action. Clough said the event could well become part of the Bowls Australia calendar ensuring at least one national selector’s attendance.