2021 Australian Open preview

by Val Febbo

It has been a long 725 days since the final bowl was rolled down the picturesque greens at the Broadbeach Bowls Club, but the Australian Open is finally returning to the national stage this weekend.

The annual festival of bowls was sorely missed in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the fraternity will once again descend upon the Gold Coast, albeit without some residing in Victoria following the state’s current lockdown.

A total of 13 clubs will play host to the tournament, with a sectional round robin format to commence proceedings, with the true beauty of the event bringing the chance for many club-level players to face their idols, world champions and Commonwealth Games gold medallists.

All 14 disciplines will proceed with sectional rounds, with the best performing athletes progressing through to the knockout stage.

Following the sectional play, a randomised knockout draw will be created without seedings, possibly producing tantalising matchups in the opening sudden death rounds, the ultimate for any sporting fan.

In 2021, the following disciplines will be contested:

Open Singles (Men’s & Women’s), Open Pairs (Men’s & Women’s), Open Fours (Men’s & Women’s), Over-60 Pairs (Men’s & Women’s), Under-18 Singles (Boys’ & Girls’), Multi-Disability Open Singles, Vision-Impaired Open Singles & Pairs, and Multi-Disability Open Pairs.

On the green, the men’s singles field will boast four former champions in three-time victor Aron Sherriff, Brett Wilkie, Aaron Teys and Aaron Wilson, as well as BCiB Jackaroos Corey Wedlock, Carl Healey and Ben Twist.

Joining that illustrious group are the likes of Emerging Jackaroos in Cody Packer, in form brothers Kane and Jacob Nelson, Jake Rynne, Matt Lucas, Jayden Christie and Jarryd Davies.

Defending champion Sherriff will head to the tournament as the favourite as he looks to claim a fourth Australian Open singles crown, and in an event where he holds the record for most titles he’ll pose a challenge to anyone he faces.

Possibly his biggest challenge will be the in-form Aaron Teys, who has lit up the bowling world since its return to the national sporting calendar in February, winning two BPL titles with the Tweed Heads Ospreys, including an MVP award in BPL13, as well as a gold medal in the men’s fours and a bronze in men’s pairs at the Australian Championships two weeks ago.

However, Teys’ Ospreys teammate and fellow Warrilla club member Corey Wedlock, the number one ranked male bowler in the country will aim to claim his maiden singles crown.

So far this year he has amassed a triples and fours gold at the Australian Championships, as well as the two Ospreys victories and an Adelaide Masters title.

Wedlock is putting together a fine season, as are the Nelson brothers, who have sat in the top five in the rankings through almost all of 2021 with Kane currently sitting just outside at six and Jacob at three.

The pedigree in the men’s field is high, and so is the women’s with a staggering seven former champions in the draw.

Two-time winners Ellen Ryan and Natasha Van Eldik will return, as well as defending champion Rebecca Van Asch, with Lynsey Clarke, Kelsey Cottrell, Julie Keegan and Anne Johns will vie for glory on the Gold Coast.

In-form Jackaroo and number one ranked female Dawn Hayman will also contend for a maiden singles title at the tournament after claiming the women’s pairs trophy in 2019 with Genevieve Delves, who will also be on the hunt for her own singles crown.

Kristina Krstic will make the trek from Western Australia as she looks to perform in her first tournament outside of Western Australia in 2021, while another Jackaroo enjoying a successful year is Chloe Stewart, who will be desperate to etch her name on the coveted honour roll.

Hayman will go into the tournament as one of the early favourites, with her form unquestionably sensational in recent months, taking her second consecutive Australian Champion of Champions victory, a New South Wales state singles crown, as well as lighting up BPL13 for the Perth Suns, where she sent the raucous crowd into a frenzy with a stellar display.

However, Van Eldik and Delves teamed up expertly as they took home two gold medals for their state in the women’s triples and pairs at the Australian Championships a fortnight ago, while Lynsey Clarke conquered the Tweed Heads Bowling Club’s women’s singles and pairs titles last month.

In the pairs, both defending champions will return to stake their claim for another piece of silverware for their mantlepieces, with Sherriff teaming up with Ray Pearse again, while Hayman and Delves will contest the women’s event.

The Australian Open is always hotly contested, and with the sheer pedigree of each field, fans are set to be enthralled and amazed by the action of all competitors in this festival of bowls.

The 2021 Australian Open will be staged across the Gold Coast from June 12-25, courtesy of support from Tourism and Events Queensland and City of Gold Coast.