Aussie bowls team training hard
Getting aggro, pumping iron and training through rain and cold on an overgrown paddock, as Iain Payten reports for the Gold Coast Bulletin . It may sound like a Rocky montage but this is the training regimen Australia’s lawn bowlers have been using for 18 months to get ready for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. Lawn bowls as a blood sport doesn’t seem quite right but that’s not too far off what will unfold at the Kelvingrove Centre, where bowls will be, unsurprisingly, among the Games’ most popular events. Scots snapped up all the tickets months ago and thousands will pack big grandstands to watch a style of bowls that can often seem less like touch and precision and more like ten and pin. “It is completely opposite to the way we play in Australia, so we have had to change our style and train accordingly,” Australian bowls team leader Lynsey Clarke said. Exhaustive effort has gone into planning, and preparing, for Glasgow. With greens in Scotland thicker and slower than the hard decks of Australia, a purpose-built “Glasgow green” was created in Melbourne at the end of 2012 to mimic the Games’ venue. A green at Maribynong Park Bowling Club was grown out and Australia’s leading contenders for the Commonwealth Games team were encouraged to fly in and practice. “It became a bit bumpy and really tracky,” Clarke said. “In fact, it was probably worse than the greens they’ve got here, so we’ve got here and gone ‘wow’. But in hindsight, it was a really good thing because we’re now looking at the greens going ‘this is easy’.” Clarke, who lives on the Gold Coast, would sometimes fly in and out of Melbourne on the same day to use the Glasgow green. Others did the same from Sydney, and with the team not selected until April this year, the passion didn’t go unnoticed by selectors watching on. That hunger was also evident with work put in by the new breed of Aussie bowlers spent in the gym; a training method that would shock bowlers of yesteryear but can make a huge difference in these conditions, says Clarke. “We do a lot of core strength stuff, because bowls is very much stability orientated. Then just general fitness, a little bit of weights, cardio that sort of thing,” she said. “We are on the games for six hours a day, so we need to be physically ready to be able to keep our wits about us. “It is so different to playing at home. These greens, it takes a lot of effort and strength just to be playing so we have been working a lot on that. “For those who don’t play, they probably don’t understand the effort that goes in. Lots of lunging etc. “Bowls has definitely changed. Bowlers just used to go out, compete, have a couple of drinks and that’s it. “But these days it’s very professional and we put in a lot of work off the green on the fitness side and the psychological side.” Knowing that even forecasts of sunny days in Glasgow are qualified with “chance of rain”, Australian bowlers trained on through rain and the winter cold of Melbourne. It toughened them, which suited perfectly a similarly changed mindset of tactics and strategy. Gone was the reliance on Aussie skill and touch to confidently thread an invisible needle for the shot. In came blood sport. “We play more of a finesse game but up here, you take a bit of the skill out. You are chasing the jack, moving the bowls,” Clarke says. “At home you like to try and play the perfect shot, “yeah, I can get inside that”. But we had to change our thought process to “hit that, play through.” It is a mental game.” Caption: Aron Sherriff going through the motions ahead of the first round. Image: Adam Head.