Q & A with Bowls Australia President Nigel Smith
Hear Bowls Australia President Nigel Smiths thoughts on the 2015 and 2016 Australian Open’s on the Gold Coast. With the 2016 Australian Open fast approaching, we caught up with Bowls Australia President Nigel Smith to get his thoughts on the world’s biggest bowls festival.
Bowls Australia: Which aspects of the 2015 Australian Open did you enjoy the most?
Nigel Smith: For me it’s really about meeting a whole range of new people, interstate and overseas visitors were great to play against, and also travelling to a host of different clubs. The camaraderie at the clubs was fantastic and the event as a whole had a really good feel.
BA: As a resident of the Gold Coast, the Gold Coast bowling community must be very proud to have their region and their clubs on show for visitors during the Australian Open?
NS: The thing about the Gold Coast community, from south at Coolangatta to the North side at Beenleigh, the clubs have all been extremely supportive of the Australian Open. They have shared their greens which are of the highest quality; they are absolutely second to none and I’m sure everyone enjoyed playing at the 12 wonderful host clubs last year. The clubs are really proud to be showing off their greens and facilities to plenty of interstate and international visitors and the additional three clubs being utilized this year are excited to be involved.
BA: Were you pleased to see how many club bowlers entered last year’s Australian Open?
NS: I was very pleased with the turnout. It was the first attempt for an Australian Open to have no state-based qualifying and it proved to be a truly open event. There were no reserved spots, no players received direct entry, there was no seeding in the draw and you had and the opportunity play against the best of the world. The highlight for me last year was the first round of post sectional when Alex Marshal and Aron Sherriff played at Southport; for me this demonstrated how truly open the event was.
BA: As Bowls Australia’s newly appointed President, who do you think you will be presenting trophies to at the pointy end of this year’s competition?
NS: Obviously in the singles it is hard to look past Aaron Teys and Ellen Ryan who will be determined to defend their titles. Local guys like Helensvale based Australian players Brett Wilkie, Nathan Rice, Lynsey Clarke and Mark Casey are always hard to beat on the Gold Coast greens and of course Canadian star Ryan Bester knows the greens very well, especially at his home club Broadbeach. It will be great to see Scottish, New Zealand, Hong Kong and Malaysian squad members coming over in preparation for the Commonwealth Games.
BA: This year the Australian Open has 2 new events, what do you think about the introduction of over 60s men’s and women’s pairs?
NS: These events will be a fantastic inclusion; bowls is a sport for life and this age demographic is a significant segment of the sport. It will be a wonderful opportunity to play against their own peer group. 8-10 years ago the Australian Senior Sides Championships was introduced and is an extremely popular event. The bowls will still be highly competitive and with a significant import of interstate bowlers, the numbers as a total will increase as a result of the Over 60s event. I think the group of bowlers who thought they would find it tough playing against the best in the world and opted not to enter last year will be encouraged to participate in the Over 60s events.
BA: Will you be competing in this year’s open and if so which events?
NS: Of course I wouldn’t miss it for the world; I will be competing in the Over 60s Pairs and Open Fours. I still enjoy the competitive nature of bowls and in my role as Bowls Australia President I feel that it’s important to be visible to the bowling community. The grass root bowlers make the sport so it is very important to be mixing with them out on the greens, hearing their thoughts and ideas about how the sport can be improved moving forward.
BA: What do you say to people who are undecided whether to enter the Australian Open?
NS: The Gold Coast is a wonderful location with beautiful beaches, plenty of accommodation and price wise it is very competitive. The greens on the Gold Coast are second to none, you have the opportunity to play against the best players in the world and it is also a wonderful opportunity for families to have a holiday. There are so many added benefits of entering the Australian Open so I hope to see more new faces this year.