IT will be a hot summer in Ballarat District Bowls division one, with 10 sides squaring off for the title. The Courier’s Michael Pollock takes a look at the contenders.
Recruits: Greg Brown (Central Wendouree), Brett Forrest (Sebastopol)
Departures: Peter Hopkins
LAST SEASON: Third
AFTER finishing in the top three for the past two years and bowing out in the preliminary final both times, Ballarat is full of determination to make amends for its missed opportunities.
Tournament director Mark Fothergill is confident that the recruiting of gun premier division bowlers Greg Brown and Brett Forrest can help bolster the team’s needs and deliver Ballarat some genuine success.
“The club is very happy with who we’ve picked and we think that Greg and Brett are a couple of bowlers who will be able to stand up in finals pressure, given their experience in the premier division,” Fothergill said.
“Every bowler at Ballarat is disappointed with our results over the past couple of years and we feel that we’re in a good position to make the finals again and possibly take the next step into a grand final.”
Recruits: Lindsay Trounce (Central Wendouree)
Departures: Jake Clark (Webbcona)
LAST SEASON: Second
BALLARAT Memorial Sports has a lot to prove after finishing second last year only to be thoroughly outclassed by Ballarat East in the grand final.
With a relatively unchanged squad BMS is hopeful of another top-four finish, but tournament director Graeme Inglis is wary of an improving competition and understands that BMS has to improve its standing away from home to be a chance.
“We’ve consistently been in the top two or three over the past few years and I’d like to see that trend continue,” Inglis said.
“The improvement in the competition is going to go up another notch and we need to learn to play the other greens a bit better – we tend to struggle a bit on the heavier surfaces.
“Lindsay Trounce is a premier division bowler at Central Wendouree and his inclusion will help strengthen our side.”
Recruits: Simon Avery
LAST SEASON: Sixth
BUNINYONG is looking at making significant improvements to its standard of play and pushing for a possible top-four spot in division one this year.
After finishing in the middle rungs for the past few years, selector Colin Hayes is excited about the prospect of potentially making the finals.
“We now realise what’s needed from the club point of view in terms of being competitive in division one,” Hayes said.
“We’ve been a club that has tended to grow our own players, and over the years that has seen us start off in division three, progress to division two and right up to division one.”
The club is focusing on becoming more consistent and will welcome the return of former bowler Simon Avery for the home and away season.
Recruits: Greg Roberts (Lakes Entrance), Col Wright, John Nimmo (Victoria)
Departures: Greg Brown (Ballarat), Kim Watts, Peter Orr (City Oval)
LAST SEASON: Ninth, premier division
LAST year’s loss of key players diminished Central Wendouree’s chances of securing another berth in the premier league, and the club has subsequently become this year’s relegation back to the Ballarat division.
Selector Rob Watson believes Central Wendouree is in a better position this time around, and says the club is primed to make a charge into the finals.
“The club has new selectors this year and we have three or four good sides across the different divisions – so there’s a lot of depth in our club at the moment,” Watson said.
“We’ve got quite a few strong players coming up from division two and I think they will probably make the transition into our division one side.
“We’ve had good teams over the past few years and they have a pretty good record in division one, so we’re setting a target to get back into premier league.”
Recruits: Peter Orr (Central Wendouree, premier), Kim Watts (Central Wendouree, premier), Robert Vance (BMS), Shane Vance (BMS), Ian Long (Learmonth)
Departures: Ryan Jones (Highton)
LAST SEASON: Seventh
CITY Oval is out to redeem itself after a disappointing seventh placing last year and has taken several steps forward after a busy off-season in which the club landed a plethora of high-quality bowlers.
The club is looking at making improvements and lifting itself from the bottom rungs of the ladder via way of five big inclusions who made their way over from rival clubs.
“We’re quietly confident that we’ll improve on last year’s efforts,” selector Wayne Roberts said.
“We’ve kept the nucleus of a fairly good side over the past few years, but last season was a bit of a reality check and it was probably time that we got some new faces around the club.
“There’s minimal expectation regarding where we’d like to finish, but on top of our inclusions we will also see Terry O’Farrell and Gary Powell return after spending last year in division one.”
LAST SEASON: Champion, division two
AFTER several successful seasons in division two, Daylesford finally has another chance to try its hand at the next level.
Last year’s defeat of Sebastopol in the division two grand final was evidence enough that the club is ready for the next step, but Daylesford committee member Leon Hedwards believes the team will need to quickly adapt to the higher standard of play following an eight-year hiatus from division one.
“The chance to play in division one is what we keep playing for, and we’ve always been competitive in division two, so it’s nice to see some reward for last year’s success,” Hedwards said.
“We have to acclimatise to what’s expected of us as quickly as possible and settle as early as possible to take the pressure off later in the season.”
Daylesford has been quiet in the off-season recruiting, and is looking at replicating Smeaton’s success last year to avoid regulation.
Recruits: Wes Lennecke, Fred Lennecke (Victoria, premier league)
LAST SEASON: Fourth
EXPECT another solid season out of Learmonth, with the club recruiting well and setting itself up for a possible return to finals.
The club is excited about the recruitment of Victoria premier league bowlers Wes and Fred Lennecke, who Learmonth chairman of selectors David Kelly believes can bring the club some genuine success.
“We were only one game out of the top four last year and we think we’re a strong chance to make the finals and really push for a preliminary final,” Kelly said.
“Wes and Fred Lennecke will be handy players for our club – our division one team will get stronger and that will create a flow-on effect making our division four team stronger as well.
“Hopefully they can help our other players become better through our practice sessions.”
In an added bonus for its stocks, Learmonth managed to retain all of its key bowlers from last season.
LAST SEASON: Fifth
MT XAVIER has set its sights on another competitive year in division one, and has targeted an improvement on last year’s sixth place as its main goal.
The club enters the season with a completely unchanged line-up, preferring to grow its own talent instead of trying to cover any losses with outside recruiting.
“We’ll be at least as competitive as we were last year, and we will be blooding a few new players into the team,” men’s tournament director Brian McKeegan said.
“We were probably down a little bit last year, there were a few players that either left us or moved on to other clubs and we couldn’t remain competitive without them.
“We’ve got a very good surface, we’re very happy with how it’s come on and we think that the opposition clubs are going to enjoy coming here and playing us.”
LAST SEASON: eighth
A SOLID outing in its first division one appearance for several years last year has Smeaton returning with more on its agenda than just making up the numbers.
The club now has a fair idea of what division one is all about and selector Bill Cosgrove is expecting a competitive effort from the team.
“Making our way into division one last year was a terrific boost for the club, and that’s what we always wanted to strive for,” Cosgrove said.
“We were bordering on the four early in the season and had we won one or two of our last games we would have been in the middle of the ladder instead of near the bottom.
“We’re always looking to get to the finals, but there’s always a team dropping back and we have to make sure that we’re not that team.”
The club is taking an unchanged squad into this year’s competition, but hasn’t ruled out the possibility of giving several of its young players a run in division one.
Recruits: Neil Constable (Central Wendouree)
LAST SEASON: Ninth
WEBBCONA is hoping to overcome a disappointing season last year and become a competitive force once again.
The only club to feature teams in both premier division and division one suffered a raft of injuries to its key players last season, and only just retained its division one standing with a ninth placing.
Key skippers Ian Cross and Rob Remmington return to the side after overcoming injuries, and selector Harold Worsley believes the two can give the club the drive it needs to climb back up the ladder.
“Our first focus is on holding our spots,” selector Harold Worsley said.
“If we don’t have too many players missing through injury or illness then we can certainly climb right back up the ladder.
“It can be difficult for us because we’re playing against teams who are fielding their best sides and in reality this is our seconds team, but it certainly makes the competition more interesting.”
Webbcona has managed to retain all of its key personnel and has even managed to add to its numbers with Neil Constable.