This article was written by John Siteman.
In sports, there is always the dream inside athletes to get to compete in the “big time”. For me, I’m lucky enough that for the past week, I’ve gotten to do so for the fourth time, traveling all the way from Nova Scotia to compete at the 2019 Australian Open, taking place here in Gold Coast, Queensland, Australia.
This year, my mom and I have come down here for our fourth edition of the tournament hoping to get a lot of experience against some top-notch opposition. We’ve also brought down a friend of ours from the Dartmouth Lawn Bowls Club, Gordon Curtis, who is experiencing Australian competition for the first time. In this edition, we are lucky enough to be competing alongside (as far as I know) the largest group of Canadians to compete in the AO in the tournament’s history- 16 from coast to coast, from club bowler level right to our National team representatives competing in the Asia Pacific Championship shortly following.
After some travel headaches which resulted in some missed flights and delayed bags, we got into the Gold Coast about a week ago. Though we were super tired, we wanted nothing more than to jump right into the bowls universe as quickly as possible. For us, that meant a trip over to Kelvin Kerkow’s Aero Bowlsworld to connect with fellow Canadian Emma Boyd, who has been bowling down here since January. It was nice to connect with a familiar face and get around the sport we love a bit after the piles of travel from Nova Scotia.
Leading into the Australian Open, we were lucky enough to get a last minute entry into a prestigious event, the Mermaid Beach Pre-Australian Open Four-a-Side, which takes place the two days in advance of the Australian Open at the Mermaid Beach Bowls Club. The event has a full field of 20 teams of four from around the world competing in first to 31 singles, two-bowl triples- 28 ends, 14 end pairs games and finishing off with an 18 end fours game. Though we didn’t get as many wins as we hoped, we had some great performances learning against some top teams, including a great match for my mom and I where we took a developmental team from Hong Kong right to the end in the pairs- finishing up a 13-10 scoreline. This competition time on the greens so close to the Australian Open definitely got us confident and excited to get started with competing in the big event!
Because of the way that the sectional rounds are structured out (due to the massive field of over 2,900 athletes from around the world all in the big event), we had a few days in between the end of the Mermaid Beach tournament and our competition. That gave us time to catch up with members of our National team who arrived the day after us, compete in the Mega Bowl (a fun one bowl one end singles competition) and head up to a local wildlife park to have our special “Koala Breakfast” experience of getting to have an awesome meal while learning about those famous Aussie furry friends!
Come Monday, it was finally time to get out on the greens and compete! Due to a schedule conflict, Gordon and I headed up to the far north of the Gold Coast to the Paradise Point Bowls Club for our Men’s Singles sectional round while my mom headed to Southport Bowls Club for her Women’s Pairs. In my Singles, though I made a lot of shots and played ok, I came up against top-class opposition who capitalized on their experience playing on the quick running bowls greens (including Cody Packer, a very talented skip for the Western Australia State squad) while Gordon had some tight finishes as well, coming very close to victory in all three matches, both of us, unfortunately, coming out on the wrong side of all three of our sectional round matches. In my mom’s Pairs games (alongside her Australian teammate Bronwyn Torrens), they had a great sectional round- with wins over teams from Victoria (20-13) and South Australia (18-12) and a tight loss to a team from Club Helensvale (17-12) all sending the duo to the knockout rounds! They will play again in that discipline next Tuesday at the Mermaid Beach Bowls Club in the Round of 64.
On Tuesday, Men’s Pairs was the order of business as we headed out to Club Robina for Gordon and me to play our Men’s Pairs sectional round. It was another challenge as we faced a super strong section of players that were very in form going into the tournament on the ultra-fast conditions. With teams such as Trent Smalley and Duane Cahill (both competitors in the recent Blue Opal Singles) and Mike Nagy and Jordan King (former and Current New Zealand Blackjack respectively), we knew it would be a challenge. Though we had three losses- we learned so much playing against top class opposition, especially Nagy and King (who as a second, Nagy won the 2016 World Fours Championship with Ali Forsyth). Overall, still, a performance to be proud of!
The next two days were time for Women’s Singles and Men’s Fours as on Wednesday, it was was Women’s Singles time as we headed to cheer on my mom at the Broadbeach Bowls Club, the home of the 2018 Commonwealth Games. She had three strong performances, including a nailbiter against former Australian Under-18 Champion Jessica Hogan, but finished on three losses. Yesterday (Thursday), Gordon and I headed up to McKenzie Park Nerang to join up with our Australian teammates Frank Obah and Les Pate for the Men’s Fours. We had some battles, including an 11-10 nailbiter of a loss to a former quarterfinalist team skipped by Club Terrigal Bowls Coordinator Darren Morrison, but also finished on three losses. Still, though no wins on this side- it has still been an amazing tournament of learning and having fun battling it out with some of the best in the world.
The rest of the competitions here looks like it is going to be a great time! We have sectional rounds coming up in Women’s Fours coming up on Friday before the knockout rounds begin on Saturday. Overall we all are enjoying the experience of competing down here for the Australian Open. With a great crew of Canadians around this year and lots of great bowls being played, we’re going to have a bunch of fun throughout the rest of this event leading into finals and the Asia Pacific Championship. A few more of my friends that couldn’t compete in the Open but are playing with our Canadian team are making their way here during the second week and I can’t wait to spend time with them as well!
- “I can’t imagine now not competing in the Australian Open. The experience is unbelievable”- Ann Marie Siteman
To keep up with all of the results of the Australian Open taking place on the Gold Coast through June 14th, head to their website- australianopen.bowlsaustralia.com.au
Photo Credit to John & Ann Marie Siteman