The junior bowlers of the Hunter Academy, ably assisted by former juniors and Academy graduates Lachlan Freeman and Kate Matthews, have won this year’s Brett Duprez NSW Development Series. The series, which showcases some of the finest young talent across New South Wales, is run annually at Taren Point Bowling Club to not only test the skills of our junior bowlers but to offer them the opportunity to learn from some of the best in the game. Under the format each academy side had one ‘marquee’ player provided to them by Bowls NSW and included names such as Karen Murphy, Carl Healey, Barrie Lester and the great Brett Duprez himself, who were all on hand to mentor the players throughout the day.
Upon opening the series, Jackaroos assistant coach Gary Willis made note of why the series was named after Duprez. Aside from his glittering bowls career, which includes a Commonwealth Games gold medal along with bronze and silver World Championship medals, Duprez was known for his exceptional work ethic and commitment to the sport. Even now, years after retiring from representative bowls, he is still competing at some of the highest levels of the sport playing for Taren Point in their Number 1 Pennant side. With the emphasis of the day being on personal development as much as it was personal success, no one personified these two qualities more than Duprez.
Eight competing sides were split into two sections of four, with the winners of each section playing off for 1st place. Each side consisted of a singles player, pairs combination and fours team and winners of the section were determined by overall rink wins. In Section 1, Hunter Academy faced off against the NSW U18 boys side in the morning before playing Zone 10 and Zone 5 in the afternoon. Despite losing two rinks to the NSW U18 boys, Hunter were unblemished in their remaining two games which allowed them to claim first place in the section by a single rink win. In Section 2, Zone 12 lost only one rink en route to topping their section. A close look at the results revealed how close this section actually was – Zone 12 won their singles encounter over Zone 16 21-20, but had the scores been reversed, both sides would have had an even number of rink wins, meaning 1st place could have come down to margins. In the end, it was Zone 12 to play Hunter for top spot in what was a repeat of last year’s final.
In near perfect conditions on a superb Taren Point green, Zone 12 gained the early upper hand courtesy of a 21-12 singles win by Matthew Swan. Knowing they needed to win both the pairs and fours, the Hunter Academy side kicked up a gear and took control of both rinks, winning 22-13 and 13-5 respectively. In what was a true team effort, credit must be given to all the Hunter players for the way they performed, but credit too must also go to team coach and mentor Jason Stokes. Stokes, who commented on how proud he was of his team, should be commended for the way he has run such a fantastic Junior Academy.
Indeed, all coaches and mentors who volunteered their time to help their teams over the day and throughout the year should be congratulated for their tireless efforts. Bowls NSW would like to pass on its thanks to these people, as well as the many volunteers at Taren Point Bowling Club who marked games, set up rooms and ensured a smooth running of the event. Special mention to Bowls Coordinator Chris Green for constantly updating the website scoreboard and to Gary Willis and the Bowls NSW team for overseeing the whole event. With events such as these, the future of junior bowls looks in safe hands.
Story by Billy Johnson