Mt Xavier veteran wins Ballarat bowling’s ultimate prize

Mt XAVIER veteran Bob Frka is Ballarat’s Champion of Champions bowler after defeating Sebastopol’s Rob Baker 25-20 in the final yesterday at City Oval Bowling Club.

The 74-year-old withstood a bold fightback by his 36-year-old rival, claiming the match and the title with a four on the 25th end.

It was Frka’s first Ballarat District Bowls Division Champion of Champions title.

The four-time club champion admitted getting jittery when Baker closed the gap from 16-3 after 11 ends to 21-20 by the 24th end.

“A relief? Was it ever!” Frka declared.

“(Baker) pulled the mat right up and played a lot of short ends. He got me with that. But on that last end I got it right.

“It is very nice to get one (a Champion of Champions title). Robert is one of the best bowlers in Ballarat. It is nice to win one when I am on the way out.”

Despite a sore back, Frka dominated the early part of the contest, controlling the mat and scoring well on longer ends.

His main weapon was consistent draw bowling, combined with the occasional but usually accurate drives.

Upon gaining control of the mat, Baker reverted to his favourite get-out tactic of short ends played close to the ditch. That unsettled Frka, allowing the Sebastopol bowler to maintain control and drag the contest back to 16-14 after 16 ends.

Over the next eight ends there was little to separate the Mt Xavier division one third and his ex-premier division skipper opponent.

With the match in the balance and on another short end, Frka responded with three draw bowls close to the jack that put Baker under pressure. The Sebastopol bowler had one bowl in his hand and a decision to make. He later admitted he made the wrong one.

“I was going to go a flat out drive but I decided at the last moment to try to draw. I should have gone for the drive,” he said.

With his final bowl, Frka drew just in front of Baker’s bowl to claim the four.

Baker, Ballarat Regional Bowls Association Champion of Champions four years ago, urged Frka’s supporters to get behind their man at the regional Champion of Champions title on February 14 at Avoca, saying he hoped Frka would make it all the way to the state title.