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2024 AUSTRALIAN OPEN PREVIEW

The Gold Coast will once again play host to the world’s biggest bowls festival as some of the best players from the nation and planet converge on Queensland for the 2024 Australian Open (writes Val Febbo, Bowls Australia).

As per usual, the fields are stacked with talent from the international scene to some magnificent state representatives that hope to give this tournament a shake up in what is to be the most gargantuan edition yet.

The Right at Home Jackaroos are littered across the draw and headlining the names is the man that almost completed a clean sweep at last year’s tournament, Aron Sherriff.

Now a five-time singles champion, the Queenslander will face off against New South Wales’ Rodney Ibbett, Victoria’s Christopher Owen and his state compatriot Mark Winter.

Should Sherriff conquer the singles once more, he will become the first player in tournament history to claim an elusive three-peat in the discipline.

He will team up with his fellow Australian teammate Aaron Teys in the pairs and fours, with Barrie Lester and Corey Wedlock to join the duo as the quartet prepares to defend its crown from the 2023 event.

Wedlock, the singles runner up a year ago, will be pitted against young Tasmanian Jonty Hayes and South Australians in Peter Roachock and Tristan Griffith in his section.

Hayes featured in the Junior BPL Challenge earlier in 2024 when he lifted the trophy for the Melbourne eXtreme.

Teys and Lester will both feature in the singles discipline, with the former and 2015 winner to take on Michael Kinnane of Victoria, New Zealand’s Kevin Rowe and the ACT’s David Harry.

Lester, also a pairs conqueror at the tournament, will meet Paul TretheweyNicolaas Williams and Derick Webb.

Two-time champion Aaron Wilson will be back in action looking to improve on a quarterfinal showing in 2023. He faces the likes of New South Wales Damon Maddock and Scott Bourne, as well as Western Australia’s Jason Godden.

Wilson will reunite with his fellow Jackaroo in Ben Twist as the team looks to make history by becoming the first players to win three consecutive crowns in the pairs discipline.

Twist’s singles campaign will commence on day two of the event when he takes on Denis Squires and Zane Ballhouse from New South Wales, as well as Club Tweed’s Joe Franzi, who has also previously served as a volunteer at the tournament on top of playing duties.

Should Twist reign supreme in the singles, he will become the first male to claim a gold medal in each of the three open competitions on top of the former triples discipline which was discontinued after 2013.

Dual World Champion Carl Healey will also feature at the tournament looking to add to his three gold medals across various disciplines.

He will meet Rev. L Marcus Zeino of the USA, New South Wales’ Peter Psaltis and Kenan Yucel of Victoria in his singles section.

Other Jackaroos featuring in the singles will be Nick Cahill, Cody Packer, Nathan Black and Matt Lucas, while last year’s runner up in Jacob Nelson throws his hat into the ring once more as he looks to improve on his scintillating run from twelve months ago.

In addition, recently crowned world champion Ray Pearse will also be back in action as he looks to add to his two Australian Open titles.

Para Jackaroos such as Tony Bonnell, James Reynolds, Damien Delgado, Chris Flavel and Josh Barry will all take part.

As usual in the Australian Open, the international star power is well and truly on show with both of the 2023 World Bowls Championships singles finalists in Ryan Bester and Gary Kelly to feature in the tournament.

Bester is a two-time Open winner, including the blue ribboned singles in 2018 where he was also crowned as the player of the tournament.

Kelly won his sole title in 2022 when he saluted in the men’s fours with Healey, Wayne Ruediger and Nathan Pedersen.

Kelly’s World Championships pairs winning teammate Adam McKeown will also feature at the tournament, while other familiar faces such as Chris RosanesKevin AndersonRyan Burnett, Brendan Wilson, Kepler Wessels, Clive Adams, Ali Forsyth and Blake Nairn will bid for their own slice of glory.

The women’s field is equally as stacked with a plethora of big names striving to etch their names into the tournament history books.

Reigning singles champion Cass Millerick is aiming to become the second female to successfully defend her crown after Natasha Van Eldik achieved the feat in 2019 and 2021 with 2020’s event cancelled due to COVID-19.

Millerick will face off against New Zealand’s Christine Buchanan, New South Wales’ Janine Brown and South Australian Susan Hutchinson in the sectional rounds, while Van Eldik will also feature as she bids for singles crown number four.

The Raymond Terrace product takes on Vicki AttenboroughHeather McColl and Claire Ferguson in her section, and will also reunite with Genevieve Delves as the pair look to go back-to-back in the women’s pairs.

2023 singles runner up and ten-time Australian Open champion Kelsey Cottrell is back for more glory as she looks to continue her dominance of the competition with her great friend and former Australian teammate Lynsey Clarke, who shares her record for most titles at the event.

Clarke and Cottrell have won a whopping eight titles together and will once again stride onto the green as a unit in the pairs and fours, teaming up with Sam Ferguson and Rebecca Van Asch in the latter.

Van Asch herself is a five-time AO conqueror and will look to build on her illustrious resume, as will three-time winner Chloe Stewart who is in scintillating form after winning the Queensland state singles and pairs titles last week.

Stewart’s singles section consists of Louise BaldwinGenevieve Staunton-Latimer and up and coming youngster Louise Cronan from Taren Point.

The Club Tweed product will be out to defend her fours crown with teammates Olivia Cartwright, Laura Butler and Katelyn Inch after what was a magnificent run to the title in 2023.

The dynamic duo of Kristina Krstic and Ellen Fife (nee Ryan) are back at the tournament looking to take home their first crown as a pair.

Krstic’s singles group sees her against Linda WarderKathy Miller and Kathryn Brenton, while two-time singles winner and 2017 player of the tournament in Fife takes on Mary KellyAlison Goninan and Zoe Stewart.

Last year the pair teamed with Brianna Smith and Ellen Falkner MBE in their run to the fours decider and will link up again as they look to go one better in 2024.

Falkner was part of another final in 2023 going down in the pairs with Carmen Anderson who she will team up with once again as they look to go one better.

The former English international will also take part in the singles in an attempt to better her quarterfinal run from last year.

Smith and Anderson will also be involved in the singles, as will Jackaroos Kylie Whitehead and Jamie-Lee Worsnop.

One of the most in form players in the country is Dawn Hayman, who will be back and ready to pounce on as much silverware as she can after a stunning New South Wales state championships where the St Johns Park exponent saluted in four events.

Hayman lost an epic singles final in 2022 to Cottrell and will be looking to etch her name onto the trophy for the first time in her career.

Some of the internationals in the event include New Zealand’s World Championships singles conqueror in Tayla Bruce as well as her Blackjack teammates in Selina Goddard and Leeane Poulson, while Canada’s Kelly McKerihen and Emma Boyd will also throw their names into the ring.

On the home front, some familiar faces will be back in action with Emerging Jackaroos in Kate Argent-BowdenSophie Kurzman, Kira Bourke and Jessie Cottell all bidding for medals, as well as recently crowned World Bowls Indoor champion Samantha Atkinson.

Right at Home Para Jackaroos such as Serena BonnellCheryl Lindfield and Helen Boardman will be looking to put their best foot forward, as will Jodie Nikolic.

Other names to watch out for are 2022 pairs champion Olivia Bloomfield and the 2023 over 60’s pairs winners in Debra and Karin Lynch.

The 2024 Australian Open will take place on Australia’s Gold Coast from June 8-21 with live streaming on Bowls Australia’s Facebook and YouTube channels.

Caption: Reigning singles champions Cass Millerick and Aron Sherriff. Credit: Bowls Australia