Men’s Premier League Preview

by Aaron Delaporte

The Professionals Men’s Pennant Competition kicks off this weekend – this is the 124th season of competition and another 16 players will be looking to add to the rich history of WA bowls as Premier League champions. There are many questions to consider in the battle to hold the shield aloft on Sunday April 3rd when the grand final will be played. Can Osborne Park go back to back, will South Perth end a long drought after getting close in recent years, can Doubleview bounce back after missing finals last season or can someone else put their hand up and challenge for the title. And what about the promoted sides Mosman Park and Safety Bay – can they hold their own in the big league? As usual there has been plenty of players changing clubs and even some interesting recruits including a well credentialed South African and a Tasmanian, so let’s have a look and do some crystal balling as to how the teams may fair in 2021/22. Good luck to all teams and players.

1st Osborne Park

Last Year: 1st
INS – S Loftus
OUTS – S O’Neill

Comments: Osborne Park turned in one of the more outstanding Premier League seasons ever seen losing just three games for the year – interestingly all three were away games on synthetic greens which may be there only real weakness. Shane Loftus is a very good in for them having really progressed as a player in recent seasons and Ossie Park may still have natural improvement with three of the states brightest prospects in Segan Pasalich (16), Connor Biddle (25) and Jack East (19) in the team. The only down side for the Saints is losing long time member Steve O’Neill who has decided to play closer to home at Quinns Rocks, O’Neill was a very steady back end player but they have the depth to cover this loss. Add in Cody Packer along with the veterans such as Gordon King, Gary Caffell, Neville Stevens and Kevin Pickering just to name a few and you have a very balanced team of youth and experience that should put in an exceptional title defense.

2nd South Perth

Last Year: 2nd
INS – Daniel Brown, Lee Such, Paul Davies
OUTS – Ross Bresland, Davis Mortley, Tom Reid

Comments: South Perth last won Premier League in the 1970/71 season and whilst they have gone almighty close in recent years including last season they haven’t quite managed it. However this season looks to be as good as any with three very good recruits in Brown and Such who should skip and Davies who is a more than handy second. Whilst they have lost three others all of them haven’t left the club, just having a break, and could potentially return at some point later in the season. South Perth has a few under rated players like Tom Antonio, Troy Kinnane and Tyrone Alberti who really compliment the well known players like Opie, Walker and Pauling. Expect the Millers to win plenty of games this season and then it will be a matter of getting the monkey off the back come finals time.

3rd Doubleview

Last Year: 5th
INS – Kyle McIlroy, Russell Bates, Anthony Williams
OUTS – Jim Barry, Andrew Tennant

Comments: After winning the flag in 2018 and 2019 and then leading the competition when Covid struck in 2020 the View unusually dipped in 2021 finishing in 5th spot. They should get their mojo back this season with Kyle McIlroy returning being joined by Russell Bates and Anthony Williams they have arguably the best recruits of any side this year. They have also promoted 26yo Brandon Heta who joined the club last year from Armadale and has worked hard to improve his game and earns a well deserved shot in the top grade. These lose serviceable players in Jim Barry and Andrew Tennant but have a raft of experience including Lindsay (Prickles) Thorn who has played close to 800 Premier League matches. They of course also have John and Charlie Slavich, Ryan Moyle and Stewart Gosstray in their very formidable line-up. I have placed them 3rd and expect them to make finals but they could easily go all the way once again.

4th Cambridge

Last Year: 8th      
INS – Eric Johannes, Sean Mawdsley
OUTS – Lance Strahan

Comments: Cambridge will go into the 2021/22 season with the only team to have a Commonwealth Games medal to their credit. New recruit Eric Johannes who actually resides in Kalgoorlie will be catching the train across on a regular basis for the Knights. He won a Bronze medal playing triples for South African in Melbourne 2006. Johannes has already shown his immense talent in practice games and will be a real drawn card to the competition this year. Sean Mawdsley is also a big recruit for Cambridge and will take a rink whilst the other good news is David Opie should play a whole lot more than just the 4 games he managed last year. Lance Strahan is not playing at the moment and is the only loss but could return in the second half of the year perhaps. These In’s really strengthen the Knights who finished 8th last year and lost several close ones. They now have great depth with Blake Nairn and Clive Adams leading the other rinks plus proven performers such as Phil Potts, Cameron Harris, the Bolton trio (Neil, Ross and Luke) plus Nick Lewis it’s a really solid 16 they are putting on the park. Expect them to bounce back and push for finals this year – they could even surprise and win the lot.

5th Manning

Last Year – 6th
INS – Daniel Trewhella, David Downey, Mitchell Walker, William Hyatt
OUTS – Lee Such, Anthony Williams

Comments: Manning have lost two handy players in Anthony Williams and Lee Such but have done well to replace them. Daniel Trewhella is a proven performer who gives them a great chance to improve on their 6th position last year. The other recruits are all younger fellas with some talent. Mitchell Walker from Donnybrook will make his debut along with Mandurah’s Will Hyatt whilst David Downey has some previous experience. Manning also have plenty of quality with Tom Mitchell and Shane Knott plus Lewis Grigg who will skip a rink for the first time since crossing a few years back from Osborne Park. Other talent in the team comes from Blake Butler, Alan Heal, Peter Ker and Miles Kemp. Manning also have some depth from their lower ranks and it will be interesting to see if former International Cricketer Brad Hogg gets a call up at any stage. Manning certainly have the talent and if any team above them slips up they look most likely to push into the finals and replace them.

6th Kardinya

Last Year – 3rd
INS – Tony Krajancic, Eddie Gollan
OUTS – Paul Davies, Russell Bates, Marc Abonnel, Brad Ball

Comments: Kardinya did well to make finals last season but have been hard hit by departures losing four good players. Tony Krajancic is perhaps past his brilliant best but can still play as a good game and Eddie Gollan has shown he was up to the standard last year playing for Rossmoyne. Dave Rankin is clearly Kardinya’s best and it will require some big seasons from the rest of the 16 if they want to be in the finals mix. They are relying on some names who whilst they have been Premier League regulars will need to lift another notch such as Sam Perica and Steve Novak who will also skip. The Kats do possess a handy home ground advantage so expect to see them be competitive, but I just can’t see them winning enough away games to really seriously challenge the big dogs.

7th Sorrento

Last Year – 4th
INS – Dan Nicholls, Andy Elmer
OUTS – Kyle McIlroy, Daniel Brown, Shane Loftus, Shane Rixom, Leith Oldham

Comments:  If we thought Kardinya were hard hit then Sorrento have been downright decimated by departures losing five players including three skips. Dan Nicholls will replace one of them and is a much needed recruit whilst Bruce Eagles has shown he has the right qualities to take a rink. Rhett Butler has fully recovered from a heart attack and is a reliable skip along with Chris Lander so they still have some strength in the team. Sorrento have bought in some new players amongst their ranks who will provide enthusiasm with Matt Sharrett, Alan Walton and Frank Tyson named in their line-up, good luck to these guys as they test themselves at the top level. Peter Flack, Murray Hulbert, Ross Cunningham, Greg Taylor and Peter Morgan are reliable players for Sorrento but it looks like their depth will be severely tested this season. Hard to see them repeating last year with the outs they have but just how far they slide will be the question.

8th North Beach

Last Year: 7th
INS – Michael Sweeney, Chris Margin
OUTS – Neville Costello, Peter Retallack

Comments: North Beach have done well since winning there way into Premier League and look set for another good season having picked up a very good recruit in Tasmanian Michael Sweeney who now makes WA his home. Sweeney played state bowls for the Apple Island and also won a State Triples and should acquit himself well. Chris Margin adds a bit of depth to the Blues ranks who will also give Steve Richards a game to start the season, Richards returned from NSW last year. Mark Douthie had a break-out season as a skip last year winning 11 games with a rather unheralded team whilst Brad Gillingham, Paul Walker Geoff Devenish, Joe McGinlay and Michael McConnell provide a fairly solid line-up. North Beach can surprise sides playing on a synthetic that runs around 20 seconds but not sure if they really have the star players required to do better than mid-table however happy to be proven wrong.

9th Mosman Park

Last Year – 1st in 1st White            
INS –  Jim Barry, Trevor Southern, Alan Southern, Shane Anning
OUTS – Louie Beurteaux, Stephen Jocelyn, Scott Edmonds, Otto Dawson

Comments: Congrats to Mosman Park on winning 1st White last season and good luck to them returning to the top flight. Reality may hit hard for the Mossies as they take on the defending champions Osborne Park in Round 1 and sadly for them they have lost four players including skip Scott Edmonds who is currently not playing bowls at the moment. His replacement is Alan Southern who will skip a rink with his brother Trevor along with Shane Anning all from Swan also coming into the team. Jim Barry is also a handy recruit but its debatable whether they overall are better than last year. Dale Marsland is the real strength of the team who will need to find natural improvement from players like Tristan Massang, Mitchell Cranswick, Steve Swanson and others. Hard to see Mosman Park doing much other than perhaps causing the odd upset along the way – there goal will be to try and avoid relegation.

10th Safety Bay

Last Year – 2nd in 1st White
INS – Graeme Smith
OUTS – Nil

Comments: The second team returning to the top flight, and its been a while since we saw Safety Bay here so full credit to them on getting back. They have one recruit in Graeme Smith from Kukerin who is hasn’t really shown up in any major events including Country Week, he will play third and no doubt will improve throughout the season with experience. The currently listed skips are Chris Owen, Chris Carruthers, Grant Taylor and Luke Piper who in his 40’s is the youngster of the team which certainly boosts plenty of bowls experience but not much at this high level. Safety Bay will have a significant home ground advantage especially on those super windy days and this will be there best chance for maximum points. Overall they seem likely to struggle but we wish them well and lets hope they can enjoy the experience.