CAMPASPE Valley Bowls Division midweek and weekend pennant seasons kick off this Friday and Saturday with a number of clubs boasting some big name recruits.
This season marks a special milestone for City of Echuca, the club’s centenary season giving the club all the more incentive to take home as many flags as possible.
And its chances have been boosted by the addition of the 2017 bowls male novice of the year, Mark Evans, who according to club president John Blair will slot straight into the division one weekend team in his debut season.
‘‘It’s quite remarkable that we can have Mark come straight into our division one side actually,’’ said Blair.
‘‘Our other recruits include Greg Page from Rich River and Brett Reiner after a year off.
‘‘They’ll improve our side and we look forward to what should be a good season.’’
Even though the club has lost a small number of bowlers, the feeling at Echuca is one of confidence, looking for all teams to strive for finals success in the special centenary season.
‘‘We’ve also snatched a few new bowlers to strengthen our midweek sides,’’ Blair said.
‘‘Their goal, and the club’s ultimate goal, is to play finals again.’’
But Blair said he expected Moama’s sides to again be the competition’s benchmark.
■ MOAMA has its sights set firmly on another flag.
In every division that is.
Club administrator Zane Mikin-Laurie expected his beloved club to finish even stronger than last year, believing all weekend pennant sides would be thereabouts at the pointy end of the season, with the midweek pennant teams in a similar situation.
‘‘We have three or four new recruits to go into our top 12 and that’ll filter down through our other divisions, making them stronger too’’, said Mikin-Laurie.
New recruits include Matt and Klive Lividen as well as Rich River’s Stan Barker.
‘‘Klive has come to us from Wodonga and he’s a very experienced player and brings a lot of talent to the team,’’ Mikin-Laurie said.
Although not getting ahead of themselves, Mikin-Laurie believes the side can go as far as winning the state final this year, having been beaten at regionals by Bendigo last season.
The women’s midweek pennant side is a similar story, having recruited some strong players in the form of Mellissa Roberts and Merian Spicer.
‘‘Roberts has come down from the Gold Coast and is a state player, whereas Spicer is an ex-state champion and a former international coach’’, said Mikin-Laurie.
‘‘These two will bolster our division one stocks and again like the men’s should filter down through the other divisions.’’
Division one opens the season this weekend with a grand final rematch against Tongala.
■ A REINVIGORATED Rich River Bowls Club is aiming high in the upcoming season, with club secretary Peter Moon hoping to see all teams make finals.
Rich River has recruited well for its weekend teams, plying away two players from City of Echuca’s grasp in Greg Clymo and Merv Harvey.
‘‘Merv’s looking like a good division one player and Greg’s been playing division two or three out at Echuca’’, Moon said.
As well as recruiting the talented Echuca duo, it’s also brought in Franco Preissinotto, Malcolm Mitchell and Anthony Chapman.
Moon hinted these men could be a real surprise packet to shake up the competition, with the three unknown quantities.
The midweek competition kicks off October 6 with games against Echuca and Mathoura across the three divisions, while the weekend competition opens October 7 with clashes with Deniliquin, Lockington, Elmore and Kyabram scheduled.
■ TONGALA will be looking for improvement from within this season, the strong club with an influx of new members giving bowls a try.
‘‘We have a fair few new members and it’d be nice to see improvement across the board of course,’’ Tinning said.
‘‘We’re all very positive at the club and things are bubbling along quite nicely.’’
But there’ll be quite the challenge straight up for these Blues, with division one grand final rival Moama out to start the premiership defence with a win in the round one grand final rematch.
‘‘We’ll go out with a vengeance and see what happens,’’ Tinning promised.
‘‘We’re all building up towards the new season, hopefully improvement across the board means more wins, and more wins means finals for every division which would be nice.’’
■ LAST season’s weekend division two runner-ups, Mathoura Bowls Club, is hoping the return of a couple of former weekend pennant players will bolster hopes in the coming season.
‘‘Tim Starkey and John Bates played for us a couple of years ago but for various reasons had to take a break before returning to us this season’’, Rod Werner said.
‘‘They’ll help cover a couple of players that we’ve lost.’’
Werner said a small increase on last year’s output would see the Timbercutters playing on the big stage again this season, while also hopefully getting the division one weekend side into the finals too.
But it’s a tough start, with Echuca and Moama in the first two rounds of the division one season.
‘‘We have a tough draw straight up to test us out but we look forward to it,’’ Werner said.
‘‘In the women’s we do have a depth problem as not many players are available but if they can do what they did last year then they’ll make finals no doubt.
‘‘I think we’re all just really looking forward to this season.’’