First-time partners Jim McKenzie and Brian Suckley made the perfect debut in winning the recent Woonona Over 50s Pairs tournament.
The Warilla clubmates had never previously played together but won all three games of 13-end Pairs plus had the best differential of +24 to clinch the $800 winner's purse. Suckley was expecting to play with Dapto Citizens' Peter Thelan, but Thelan was a late withdrawal, leaving the NSW Over 60s rep without a partner less than 48 hours from the event.
''Peter pulled out on the Saturday and I was at Warilla and saw Jim and asked him what he was doing on Monday. Fortunately, he was able to play, and things went well from there,'' Suckley said.
McKenzie played Grade 5 pennants with Warilla last season and more than held his own against some of the best Zone 16 bowlers. The duo started strongly with a 10-shot win and backed it up with a 12-shot win in game two, before finishing with a two-shot victory in game three, which included giving up four shots on the last end.
''We thought dropping a four on that last end might have cost us but luckily it didn't,'' McKenzie said.
Thirroul's Bob Johnson and Woonona's Peter Hunter (3wins+22) stormed home to finish two shots behind the winners and shared $500 as runners-up. Merrylands' Dion Brown and Mark Beaton (3wins+20) were third, while Towradgi's Greg Jones-David Wakeling, along with Berkeley's Bernie Kelly-Martin King and Woonona's William Sweeny and Peter Whillock all finished equal fourth with 3wins+18.
The event featured 34 teams with the leaderboard changing dramatically in the final game. Rick Murphy-John Green (2wins+27) were the clubhouse leaders after two games but lost game three to Jones-Wakeling by five shots, while second-placed Greg Dumbleton-Jack Forbes (2wins+27) lost by a shot to John James and Warren Hamilton, who finished on three wins. McKenzie and Suckley headed into their third game in third spot and despite an anxious finish against clubmates Chris Cotton and Dennis Hitchen, their 17-15 win proved just enough to clinch the tournament. Dumbleton and Forbes took out the Game 1 prize with a +20 margin. Paul Whitney and Anthony O'Neill (+23) won Game 2, with John Ritchie and Chris Brooks (+28) the top Game 3 winner.
Woonona is looking at hosting another Men's Over 50s Pairs tournament on July 4 as local clubs look to fill their calendar with confidence for the first time in two years.
Finally, the semi-finals and final of Zone Champion Fours are on this Saturday at Woonona BC. Towradgi's Blake Gillard, Graham Davis, Adam Martin and Anthony Jones (skip) take on Oak Flats' Glen Cowling, Greg Wyatt, Lupco Brglevski and Paul Woods (skip) in one semi, with the Dapto Citizens' Wayne Ford and his sons Cayne, Troy and Ben to meet Woonona's John Ritchie, Robbie Baker, Warren Hamilton and Steve Haines in the other semi.
The 2021 Zone champions in Singles, Pairs, Triples and Fours are chasing state glory at Ettalong BC, starting Friday.
COVID delayed the 2021 State Championships by almost a year but Illawarra's Open, Seniors and Grade 5-7 Reserve winners from Illawarra are finally ready to face the champions from the other 15 zones. The 10-day event begins with State Triples, with Ash Noronha, Kim Mackie and Chris Smith (Towradgi) facing Engadine in round one. Kiama's John Byrne, Cameron Baker and Peter Wallace face Narrandera in round one, while in Seniors Triples, Figtree Sports' Mick White, Harry Johnston and Mark Sunderland meet Singleton RSL.
Figtree have three teams competing, with Alan Jones and Mark Kesby in Senior Pairs, and Tony Cheetham, Peter Crewdson, Peter Ellem and Peter Bennett in Senior Fours. Illawarra's other reps are Warilla's Brendan Aquilina-Lee Stinson (Open Pairs); Warilla's Ken and Noel Stopher (Reserve Pairs); Lee Stinson (Open Singles), Towradgi's Brian Harriott (Senior Singles) and Windang's Paul Cable (Reserve Singles). The event concludes with Fours with Zone 16 represented by Warilla's Mick Thorne, Eric Haynes, Jamie Mitchell and Jeremy Henry in Open Fours, plus Wiseman Park's Ron Owen, Peter McMurtrie, Robert Paddon and Barry Deleva in Reserve Fours.
Warilla's Grade 2 pennant rink-mates Andrew Johnston and Glenn Beveridge along with Dapto Citizens top graders Chris Green and Michael Stead clinched a place at the NSW Over 40s Pairs finals in October.
Just 12 teams nominated for last Saturday's Illawarra qualifiers at Figtree, with two finals spots at Club Maitland City up for grabs. The four section winners all had two wins plus a bye to advance to the two finals. Johnston and Beveridge began with a 16-15 win over Kosta Mitskof and Steve Simeon (Figtree) and then beat Towradgi's Adam Martin and Shane Garvey 17-16 before sealing a State Finals place with a comeback 16-12 win over Towradgi's Mick Ugarenko and Kim Mackie. The Warilla pair trailed 12-2 after nine ends of the final but won the last nine ends. Green and Stead were in great touch and claimed their final's spot with a 22-9 victory over Figtree Sports' Sean Bellotti and Kay Moran. Earlier, the Citos pair beat Figtree's Vikki Wilson-Dennis Cooper 24-9 and had a big win over Windang's Gary Burke-Gary Sampson.
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