SEVERAL of the best bowlers in the world arrived in Orange on Sunday, all seeking to become the next Local Bloke Removals Golden Eagle Pairs Classic champions.
Orange’s most prestigious lawn bowls tournament starts today, and OCBC committee member and tournament organiser Lee Stinson can’t wait to see what the entered bowlers bring to the table.
“This is probably the highest quality field the Eagle has had in the last decade or so,” he said.
“Away from the big names, there is plenty of teams in with a very good chance.”
The competition is being held at three different bowling clubs, Orange City, Orange Country Club and Club Newstead, for the first time and has attracted teams and bowlers from Bathurst, Dubbo, Albury, Terrigal, Norfolk Island and Bundoora among several other clubs around the country.
Most bowlers will be champing at the bit to see, but wishing against playing, Commonwealth Games gold medal-winning bowler Neil Burkett. Burkett bowls out of Merrylands with his partner Michael Clarke.
Stinson said attracting Burkett was a huge coup for the tournament, but he was also expecting big things from former Northern Ireland bowler and current number two in the world, Jeremy Henry.
Henry will partner Jared Hamilton, out of Warilla.
“There are some seriously good bowlers coming,” Stinson said.
“Of course, there are 40 other teams that want to win the title outside those two.”
The field also features two Irish under 25 bowlers in the team of Robert Allen and Simon Colvin, also out of Warilla.
Originally, upward of 120 teams competed for the Eagle and this, the 46th competition, is set to be the biggest field since the early days.
Of the locals, Stinson nominated three-time Eagle winning pair Bernie Diduszko and Gerard Beath and 2013 champions Glen Raymond and Phil Westcott as teams to beat.
“Honestly, any team is really a good chance though,” Stinson said.
“If you can win your first games, you never know what could happen. That’s the approach I’m taking anyway.”
Stinson will bowl with two-time runner-up Steve Carr and while being modest about the pair’s chances, conceded with luck on their side they could go deep into the competition.
“We’ll take it one game at a time,” he said.
“But as I said, if you win a few and get to the quarter-finals you’re always in with a shot. We have to get through our section first, though.”
In seven six-team sections, each team plays five round-robin games with the winner of each section progressing to the quarter-finals. The next best placed side overall fills the eighth spot.
From there, sides face sudden-death finals games until the winner is crowned.