Fast-paced sporting matches are growing in popularity

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Fast, furious lawn bowls with a party atmosphere is starting to capture attention across the nation’s greens, as  Melanie Whelan reports for The Courier .

Jack Attack – lawn bowls with attitude – has begun to roll out to clubs in what Bowling Australia bills as its match to cricket’s shortened and flashy Twenty20 format.

For the traditionalists, this could cause a furore akin to the era when women were allowed to wear baggy white shorts, rather than a skirt, for pennant.

But fast and furious seems to be how we like our sport now in time-poor lives and with an insatiable thirst to be entertained.

Netball has shaken up its game in its Fast5 format with rolling substitutes, power-play quarters and long range three-points shots.

It sucks fans in so fast the game is over before they know it, leaving spectators wanting more.

Australia, sporting a team of promising new talent, finished runner-up to host nation New Zealand in the Fast5 World Series in Auckland last week.

Crowds were raucous and even the umpires loosened up and boogied their way onto the court.

Kerry Packer led the charge to revolutionise – and in many ways to save – elite cricket popularity via one-day internationals in World Series Cricket in the late 1970s.

Now Twenty20 is booming.

We like our cricket short with big-hitting batsman, shooting flames for boundaries, dancers in breaks of play and loud pumping music.

Are abridged versions spoiling the sports we love so much?

When well-done, like cricket and netball, the hype and entertainment factors brings in new fans to the game. Fans that may not otherwise be bothered to sit through hours of overs or who struggle with the stop-start nature of structured netball.

Spectators do not even have to totally understand the rules to have a good time.

Colour and hype hits the greens this week with APL02 – the second-year instalment of Australian Premier League bowls, in which teams’ average competitor age is 34.

It will be four nights of five hours of lawn bowls in only the second live television broadcast of the game in Australia, beaming to you from Queensland.

Commonwealth Games men’s fours bronze medallist Matt Flapper, a Ballarat lawn bowls export, is set to line up once more for Melbourne Roys.

Flapper loves the showmanship, so be prepared to be entertained.

“At the start of the tournament last year, the crowd was a bit timid but by the end they were really getting behind it,” Flapper said.

“For players, it was really fun and you play up it up a bit.

“Subs and power plays really add an excitement factor to the game.”

Jack Attack is the grassroots version of the Australian Premier League (APL): two-bowl triples with substitutions, two sets of five ends and – a personal favourite of this columnists – sudden death tie-breakers.

All packaged up in about 60 to 75 minutes’ play.

If you have ever been to a Ballarat District Bowls Division pennant final – you will know lawn bowls crowds are fun. Tension and massive cheering is assured.

Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre boasted some of the liveliest fans at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games this year.

Flapper reckons, from the thick of the action, APL crowds are more “full-on”.

“Fans are a lot closer to the action and are really loud when play has stopped for each side,” Flapper said.

“Gradually, when you get further and further into play, it starts to get really good.”

Flapper said Jack Attack should take off at club level, especially in Victoria where lengthy pennant seasons are out main format.

Amid family and work, many interested an potential bowlers find it hard to fully commit.

But Jack Attack? Well, people who watch APL can get their own short, sharp taste of lawn bowls’ tactical tension.

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