South Perth domination in the BPL Cup

by Aaron Delaporte

WITH the finals of the third instalment of the BPL Cup just over a month away, Western Australian teams did battle over the weekend for three places in the National Finals to be held at Pine Rivers in November.

This unique competition enables players from all over Australia to enter at club level, progress through regional and state qualifying, and earn a place on the big stage next to the world’s best competing in the Bowls Premier League.

Flights, accommodation, rink side corporate box seats for the televised BPL matches, as well as supporters gear for their adopted BPL team are just some of the prizes to be enjoyed by those that earn a place at the National event.  All that, plus the chance to play on the television rink for the coveted BPL Cup.

The growth in the competition was never more evident than in Western Australia this season, where nearly 150 teams played in qualifying events all across the Metropolitan area and in some country areas that hadn’t hosted in previous years.

“It is a truly fantastic concept”, was a common quote from the competitors who appreciated the switch to sectional play this season, rather than a very extreme knockout format that was used in previous years.

“It was great to see so many clubs get involved”, said Regional Bowls Manager Clive Adams, “the response this year has been great, and the split across regions was shown in the eight teams that qualified for State finals.”

It was country club Goomalling that hosted the biggest qualifying event with 14 teams battling for two places in the regional finals.  The club, hosting for the first time, put on a great day for all involved, and serves as inspiration for other clubs to get involved and provide a huge opportunity for their members.

South Perth hosted last weekend’s State finals, and things couldn’t have gone better for the home club, with all three National finals places going the way of the Millers.  It must be noted that South Perth hosted four qualifying rounds of the event attracting a total of 34 teams to the competition, so the club has been richly rewarded for its involvement.

First to qualify was Glenn Pauling, with Scott Walker and Ashley Sharp – a talented trio that perhaps went into the finals as the team to beat.  Pauling, capped off a big week where he also won the Mt Lawley Consistency Singles event, Walker is a former WA State player, and Sharp is a Premier League player of high quality.

Bowls WA CEO Ken Pride was another qualifier, alongside former WA State players Justin Opie and Ross Bresland.  The team overcame a tough section undefeated to lock in a National Finals berth with Opie in amazing form.  The format certainly allows the big shots to flow, and to shine, and Opie played plenty of them throughout the day.

With a third qualifying place available, it was down to the runners-up from the sectional play to battle it out – one game, and a huge prize on offer.  The assembled crowd was not disappointed as the South Perth combination of Dave Mortley, Dean Calvo and Derek Angell made the early running only to see their work often destroyed by Darren Wilkinson’s brilliance, skippering his Bunbury side of Troy Wilkinson and Gary Giblett.

In the end, it came down to a one end tiebreaker with an estimated $4,000 prize on the line – the biggest end any of the players would have played in their career.  Bunbury struck first, holding shot, before Mortley put the jack out of bounds with his first.  Under the rules, the jack was re-spotted, and with Wilkinson off target with his first, Mortley then delivered the telling shot bowl.  Wilkinson had one final attempt, but it was to no avail, and the South Perth team progressed, joining their clubmates for what will be an amazing experience for all.

The BPL Cup Finals will be played at Pine Rivers from 10th November, and will finish in amongst the lights and glitz of the Bowls Premier League.

Clubs that wish to be involved in next season’s BPL Cup events should watch for registration opportunities later this year, or contact their Regional Bowls Manager to register interest.