Young Australian lawn bowls team out to make waves in Glasgow

by admin on July 22, 2014

Cheers of encouragement and the occasional “whoop” are heard as Flo Rida’s “Wild Ones” blasts out of the loudspeakers at Kelvin Grove Lawn Bowls centre. But while the lyrics seem to juxtapose with the slow roll of bowls across the green, it is certainly fitting for a team with youth on their side. “The average age of our Australian team overall is younger than the men’s cricket team,” said triple world champion Karen Murphy. “We’ve got a good mix of youth and experience.” At 39-years-old, Murphy is the oldest member of the squad and is hoping to show why she and the Australian lawn bowls team are ranked number one in the world. “History would say Australia doesn’t do so well result wise in the northern hemisphere but I can honestly say it’s probably the best prepared Australian team I’ve been with to come to the UK,” Murphy said. The 17 Australian players have had to alter their techniques and game plans since arriving in Glasgow ahead of the first day of competition on Thursday. “You can liken our greens in Australia to billiard tables but the greens here in the UK are very slow, very lush and very heavy so you’ve really got to give it a big push,” Murphy said. Murphy says she was only 11 years when she first “nagged” her father to let her play at Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club on the NSW south coast. She has now represented Australia for nearly two decades and is Australia’s premier female bowler. This will be her fourth Commonwealth Games. The lawn bowler previously won gold in the women’s pairs at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games but was controversially omitted from the Dehli 2010 team. This time, Murphy will also be aiming for more than just a podium finish. If she reaches the medal rounds of the triples and fours, she will become the first Australian to play 500 games for Australia. “That would be a nice milestone to make, if we make the medal playoffs that would be even better”. The achievement is many years away for para-athlete and youngest member of the team, Tim Slater who is making his Commonwealth Games debut in Glasgow. Slater, 22, was born with cerebral palsy and like Murphy, was introduced to the sport by his father at the age of 12. He says he proves lawn bowls is no longer a game for the elderly. “A lot of my mates play back home and they’re all 20-years-old so it’s definitely not an old person’s sport. No one is over 40 in the team so it’s changed a bit.” Over the past two years Slater has snowballed into professional lawn bowling and most recently won a silver medal at the Physical Disability nationals. National coach Steve Glasson is confident the mix of young newcomers as well as experienced world and national champions on the squad will ensure his team will give the local athletes a challenge. “Scotland is a proud bowling nation in their own right so they’ll be very tough here,” Glasson said. “We’re very privileged back in Australia, we’ve got really good climate. The greens are quite hard and firm and they tend to run a lot faster and so the skill level is a lot higher. Here, they’re a little bit more lush and they’re quite slow so I suppose that evens the game”. Glasson said lawn bowls was very much a “mental game” and the travelling support team including a psychologist, nutritionist and physiotherapist helps the players endure games that can run up to ten hours a day. But until competition begins, the team appears at ease as they acclimatise to the green. However, before Slater switches songs to get the team pumped up to round off their training session, he says come game day, it will be different story. “I think I will get nervous on the first day when the crowds start to build up but not at the moment,” he said. “When you’ve got a lot of family coming over you feel a bit of pressure but it’s exciting at the same time so you just do what you’ve got to do.”