Familiar territory, but hostile environment
Karen Murphy will endeavour to hunt down a seventh Australian Indoor Championships trophy on her happy hunting ground next week, but contenders will be lining up from all angles to take a shot at the queen of the carpet. It’s fair to say Murphy is deserving of her number one seed status, after six title wins in seven years, but in a 32-player knockout, four bowl sets-play competition, her seeding and prior results will count for little when the bowls hit the Tweed Heads carpet early on Monday morning. Victoria’s Jenny Tirant faces the herculean task of trying to secure a first up victory against the triple defending champion – given even former winner Maria Rigby, who triumphed in 2005, was unable to stand in Murphy’s way just 12 months ago in the final decider. If there was ever a time to encounter Murphy in the tournament, now might just be it though, with Murphy having spent the best part of the last 12 months preparing for the hostile and unfamiliar Scottish conditions for the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games. While it won’t take long for Murphy to regain her deft touch, her campaign may be cut unexpectedly short if she doesn’t fire early. There’s a wealth of scintillating first rubber matches set for the opening day of the competition, none more so than home-ground favourite and Australia A squad member Kristy Thatcher against Castle Hill’s Debbie Howard. Thatcher, who took Australian Open champion Anne Johns’ wildcard position in the draw as chosen by the National Selection Panel, would be hard to look past as an early smoky to go all the way, given her intricate knowledge of the carpet and rising stocks among national and international ranks. Or perhaps it’s time for a junior to shine brightly on the national stage and steal the limelight away from Murphy, who is affectionately known as the ’nana’ of the national Jackaroos team. Among the young guns vying for a maiden title win include NSW’s Jamie-Lee Worsnop and Ellen Ryan, who encounter Christine Keep and Leisa Parsons respectively in round one, Queensland’s Natasha Jones, who plays Monika Duff, Victoria’s Chloe Stewart, who despite being only 18, already progressed to a semi-final in 2011, playing Julie Dean straight up, and Western Australia’s Rechelle Cole, who takes on Yvonne Bekeris. Also boasting sizeable claims to the coveted silverware are second seeded Sarah Boddington, former Scottish International Kay Moran, last year’s runner-up Maria Rigby and former multiple Australian Open champion Therese Hastings. With Murphy now just two triumphs behind National Coach Steve Glasson’s emphatic record, she’s sure to have the Tweed Heads crowd spurring her on from the sidelines again this week. Click here for more information on the 2014 Australian Indoor Championships, which is staged at Tweed Heads Bowls Club from Monday to Thursday.