Australian Open ‘one year to go’
The countdown is on for the world’s richest bowls event, with today marking ‘one year to go’ till the start of the 2015 Australian Open, which will see an estimated 4000 bowls participants descend on the Gold Coast. After announcing a five-year partnership with Tourism and Events Queensland and the City of Gold Coast, next year’s Australian Open will be the first time it is staged outside of its traditional home of Victoria. The event will undergo a dramatic transformation when it rolls out on the coastal tourist destination from June 13 next year. A unprecedented 60% increase in the total prize pool will see the event overtake England’s World Indoor Championships, which does not have official status as a World Bowls event, as the sport’s most lucrative tournament, with the prize purse skyrocketing to $225,000, up from $140,000 this year. Another attraction to next year’s event format is the increase of guaranteed matches for participants, due to the change from knockout progression to sectional encounters. Players that enter the three main-field disciplines; singles, pairs and fours, will be assured of competing in seven matches over six days, ensuring entrants are provided more opportunity to play their beloved sport on the idyllic Gold Coast surfaces. The improvement of the conditions of play to include more confirmed games for all players over a set amount of days also greatly boasts the appeal of combining the pursuit of an Australian Open title with a holiday at one of the nation’s premier destinations. Another drastic change to the programme is the removal of state-based qualifying, with the event transforming to a true ‘open’ affair, whereby all participants are afforded entry into the main draw to battle it out for a slice of the prize money and a chance at the coveted national title. The change to qualifying will result in a sharp increase in the number of entrants, and improve the standard of competition, while also inflating the tantalising possibility of a relatively unknown participant progressing through the battlefield to hold aloft the winner’s trophy and giant novelty cheque. Broadbeach Bowls Club, the venue for the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games lawn bowls event, has been handpicked from the pool of venues staging portions of the Australian Open’s sectional draw to be the finals’ host club. The Australian Open will be staged June 13 to 25, with the event’s website launching in August and registration available from September. Caption: Former Australian Open singles champion Brett Wilkie enjoys roll on the Gold Coast.