13 Not Unlucky for Matthews

by Aaron Delaporte

In the early 2000’s on invitation from her Aunty Flo Pola who was a State Selector for the Western Australian Ladies Bowling Association Liz West, now known as Liz Matthews went down to Manning Bowling Club to play scroungers.

Flo Pola and Liz Matthews

Whilst the visits to play scroungers where mainly for light exercise and a catch up with her Aunty the realisation was that her once blossoming tennis career was coming to an end as she was getting past running around in the heat.  Bowls looked an attractive option for someone who still had that burning competitive fire and with her Aunty Flo encouraging her along and just into her 40s she saw it as a new challenge and a possibility to reach the highest levels in a different sport.

Liz also met her now husband Mark at a similar time – the couple spent 18 years together before finally getting married and although she is officially now Liz Matthews she still gets called Westy from time to time. It was not only her partner that supported her in the transition to bowls, in her job as a project secretary for Woodside she was allowed to take a pay reduction in exchange for having Tuesdays off work to play bowls at Manning.

Little did she know that decision would reward her with numerous individual wins along with the 13 Premier League titles she has won. Matthews is the only player at Manning to have been involved in every flag they have accumulated in the dominant run at the top of the Ladies competition.  

When joining the club Manning weren’t even in the top grade of competition. Matthews spent just one season playing as a lead before she was moved to a third position and very quickly she was in the top team at the club. It was an exciting period for both Liz and the Manning Ladies team as they moved from 1 Green to 1 White and then Premier in the space of three seasons. Matthews herself going from Novice bowler to the state team in a similar time frame, her selection for WA coming after Lee Poletti withdrew due to family reasons. Matthews had finished runner-up to team-mate Kelli Wray in the State Singles, runner-up in the State Pairs and won the State Triples leading to her being crowned Female Bowler of the Year. She has also won the 100up singles and Mt Lawley Consistency Singles twice.

It was just a year later that Matthews won the first of her 13 Premier League pennant titles with Manning. The club had recruited strongly picking up Lee Poletti along with Kelli Wray and Helen Morss however held a nucleus of home grown talent. Although Manning have been fortunate in subsequent seasons to have talent arrive at their club (with the likes of Therese Hastings and Hailey Packer), they have also developed plenty themselves with Helen Heal, Sue Hogg, Robyn O’Brien, Robyn Jolly and a very young Kristina Krstic all getting started at Manning.

Matthews who has been a selector for the club for around 8 or 9 seasons and for the most recent victory attributes a lot of the Manning success to the team’s camaraderie, saying it is generally just been a matter of finding the right combination of players who can work well together. She was a selector during a period where the club also fielded two teams in top grade, such was the depth in their ranks. A subsequent rule change means no club can have two teams in Premier but with such an array of talent there is no doubt some players have been unfortunate not to play more games in Premier League for the club.

Peter Bowden has also been a big part of the success having been the team’s coach. Although his role is not strictly coaching of players in a technical sense he provides a good mentor role and can keep the players calm in even the most stressful situation and help advise on shot selection when needed. This was never more evident than in the recent final against long time adversaries Mosman Park who began the final very strongly but Manning were able to back themselves and working there way into the contest to win convincingly.

Manning 2021/22 Premier League Champions

Even for the lucky thirteenth title Matthews said there was still plenty of nerves amongst the players and the thrill of victory is still up there with the very first title. Having new players such as Robin Angel who claimed her first flag this season and others before her helps keep the team working hard to win the flag again each season.

The challenge now for Matthews will be to see if she can emulate the Cockburn legends of Peter Sardelic and Steve Srhoy who were part of an amazing 19 Premiership titles in the Men’s competition spanning 33 years in 70’s 80’s 90’s and 2000’s.