AFGRI Men’s Country Week Preview

by Aaron Delaporte

Welcome to our preview of the 95th Men’s Country Week Championships, an event which attracts a strong contingent of country bowlers to the metro area for a week of bowls. For the vast majority of participants winning is just a secondary consideration as the comradery, catch ups, fellowship and new friendships are the real highlight.

Unfortunately covid restrictions will mean that spectators will be limited to just immediate family, players will need to present their vaccination certificates at venues and also wear masks when not playing, but this has not deterred another big field with nearly 1000 players from across WA entered.

The good news is that with media partner SEN Bowls WA will be LIVE streaming the finals from Osborne Park Bowling Club on Friday 11th March to our Facebook page. This along with all results being available via Bowls Link will keep everyone up to date on the competition progress.

Let’s have a look at the major chances in each of the three disciplines Singles, Pairs and Fours that will be contested with a new major sponsor aboard in AFGRI Equipment Australia. We thank AFGRI for their support – they are your reliable source for premium agricultural and industrial equipment in Western Australia with a large range of products including the well know John Deere brand.

Men’s Singles

The Men’s Singles will commence on Friday 4th March with 158 sections across 13 venues for sectional play and 2 knock out games which is a very big day for those who make it through. Plenty of upsets can and do occur on day 1 which will leave us with 40 players. They will then battle it out from Tuesday 8th March before the Singles final on Friday 11th March.

Last years winner Matthew France would be the nominal favourite for the event and he recently tuned up for the event with a win in his club Singles at Merredin. He will also get an early taste of the finals host venue Osborne Park as he has drawn section 135 against Wayne Smith from Northam and Ian Carlson from Scaddan.

Other past winners to watch are Matthew Mitchell from Emu Point drawn at Cockburn in section 106, whilst his Pairs teammate and 2004 winner Jon Sharp is in section 63 and will face 2009 winner Trever Wilkins from Cunderdin plus Phil Jones from York who is a State Pairs and Country Week Fours winner – this is definitely the strongest section in the draw.

At Gosnells back-to-back 2018 and 2019 winner Justin Smith from York is in section 32 right next to Jim Robertson from Middleton Beach who won it in 2010 in section 33, Justin’s brother Aaron who is yet to win the Singles but more than capable is also there in section 25 whilst last years runner up and the 2016 winner Michael Ford from Geraldton is also in section 28 in a tough area of the draw.

Other names to watch for are 2013 winner Brad King (Geraldton) section 14, 2001 winner Wayne Coyle (Dunsborough), Ashley Sharp (Merredin) section 53, Robert Tiller (Comet Bay) section 57, Mark Simpson (Dudley Park) section 80, Warren Holt (Wagin) section 90, John Goddard (Hopetoun) section 122 and 2011 winner Brian Gearing (Busselton) section 150.

We have rattled off 17 players there and we may still have missed the winner as there are plenty of other quality players in the field who in the right form could easily challenge for the title. Whoever does come out on top will certainly have earnt it as they will have had to win at least 9 matches to do so.

You can follow the Men’s Singles Results via this link Men’s Country Week Singles Online Draw and Results

Men’s Pairs

The Pairs commence on Saturday 5th March with 19 host venues and is possibly the toughest event to win with the 2x2x2x2 format and 116 sections meaning the finalists will likely have clocked up 140 ends of bowls crossing over three times each end meaning on a standard 36m green around 5km’s of walking is involved and that doesn’t even factor in practice ends or replayed ends.

After sectional play and one knock out round 116 teams will be left in further knockout rounds commencing Tuesday 8th March with the final on Friday 11th March.

Last years winners the father and son duo of Robert and Bob Tiller from Comet Bay begin on slick greens at Bassendean Bowling Club in section 5 and have drawn a good section. Their opponents will be Storer and Matthews from Cunderdin, Woodfield and Butler from Narembeen and the 2018 winners Joe Criddle and Jeff Eaton from Geraldton. Previous WA state reps in Jon Sharp and Matthew Mitchell from Emu Point are right next to them in section 6 and could easily meet in the first knockout round which would be a great clash so early in the competition.

The Smith brothers, Aaron and Justin won the title in 2019 and should do deep once again. They look hard to beat in section 67 at Rossmoyne Bowling Club. The Dalwallinu team of Glen ‘T-Bone’ Jones and Dan Jolly won the Pairs in 2015 and lineup at Melville in section 103.

Other duo’s looking for their first ever Pairs win that could challenge include Shane Guidice-Nairn and Michael Ford (Geraldton) in section 31, Ashley Sharp and Matthew France in section 38, Brad Ball and Leon Birch (Pinjarra) section 105 and Dean Tinley and Martin Bigg (Comet Bay) section 114.

You can follow the Men’s Pairs Results via this link Men’s Country Week Pairs Online Draw and Results

Men’s Fours

The Men’s Fours is generally the event most players really look forward to as it is a touch more relaxed especially for the older players who can enjoy a rest between bowls played.

This year It will be played with a touch of sorrow with York’s Hayden Smith having sadly passed away unable to defend the title he won with his great mate Phil Jones and sons Aaron and Justin Smith. Fortunately, the oldest son Nathan will be able to take his place and I’m sure they will all be playing for Hayden during this event.

The Fours is played in sections of 6 across the long weekend of Sunday 6th and Monday 7th March and includes one knockout round on the Monday with just 19 teams left from the original 224 entered.

The already mentioned York team of the Smith brothers and Phil Jones are in section 30 at Willetton Bowling Club and will play teams from Three Springs, Mukinbudin, Waroona and Westonia plus a bye. Their toughest opposition for back-to-back titles is a tough one to narrow down with many good lineups in the event. Here are the teams with just the skip named who may be the biggest threat France (Merredin) section 1, Joel Leeson (Denison) section 8, Shane Giudice-Nairn (Geraldton) section 13, Jon Sharp (Emu Point) section 19, Brad Ball (Pinjarra) section 32, Robert Tiller (Comet Bay) section 35 and Arthur Crabbe (Gnowangerup) section 38.

The final is scheduled to be held on Friday 11th March at Osborne Park Bowling Club.

You can follow the Men’s Fours Results via this link Men’s Country Week Fours Online Draw and Results

Good luck to all participating players.