Lower Murray pennant bowls starts this Saturday.

Bridge Blue won the division one pennant last season but, will they remain a force in 2017-18?
Bridge Blue won the division one pennant last season but, will they remain a force in 2017-18?

The Lower Murray pennant bowls season commences on Saturday with the usual October prophecies full of high spirits and confidence, which is how it should be as all clubs search for a good opening round start.

Each season always brings about change and this one is no exception; association president Brian Leckie, in his opening address, commented on the issue of technology playing a major role, both on and off the green, especially with the heat rule.

He hinted that officials will need to have their rule books close by to deal with any dissent that might occur during a game.

Apart from that he is looking forward to another exciting season of bowls with the usual Lower Murray high standard of play and comradeship.

Meningie has been struggling to be as competitive over the past few years as the club would have liked, finishing bottom last season brought about a reluctant decision to nominate without a side in division one.

It’s bad news for club members who know the importance of being represented at the highest level, also there are still a few players who are class division one bowlers. 

There is no doubt the side will be a force in the division two competition.

Division one

The Murray Bridge club is coming off a very good season with both colours reaching the major round; Blue won the grand final while Gold won a semi final.

A major loss to the club will be high performer Graham Fromm, he has decided his future lies at Jervois which is a remarkable transfer considering his telling influence at the Bridge club over many years. 

Along with him, three other star players have moved on; Lynton Keen, John Jackson and Brian “Ruby” Traeger. 

The disturbing part about that trio, and others, is while they are loss to Murray Bridge they are also a loss to Lower Murray bowls that might feel the impact of a drop in standard.

Bridge Blue’s kippers will be Paul Smart, Bruce Attrill and Gerry Penta. 

White’s teams will be skippered by Ian Oats, Les Trewren and Chester Moore.

The club will be relying on Dean Mahoney, Wayne Freeman, Tony Trewren, Mark Callery and others to come out of division two, who are performing well enough to fill the void.

Jervois has been the trend-setter over the past few seasons.

The side finished minor premier last season but fell to Blue in the big one after winning the previous three.

Major losses are Andrew Stasinowsky and Blake Fiebig, both Grand Final skippers, who will be missed making Fromm’s signing very handy indeed. 

There is plenty of good depth to toy with here, so as usual the Bluds will be the ones to beat gain, we just have to wait and see who will be the new skippers.

After battling for most of the season, Tailem Bend eventually made it into third spot but was promptly knocked out by Bridge Gold who following that win only played one more game.

Tailem Bend has ample talent around the club but didn’t perform with any authority at all, now with Kim Tomkinson transferring to Karoonda, David Hoare having a year off and a cloud hanging over four others, the opening is ajar for those knocking on the door for a higher spot, and to make it more inviting skippers jobs are up for grabs.

Mannum missed out on the finals which is a rarity for the club but the selectors may have to dig deep again this season, long standing skipper Jack Pitcher may not play, Terry McDonnell (division one skipper) has temporarily retired and Gary Zadow will return to Karoonda.

These are class bowlers who will take quite a bit of covering. 

The side just the same will put up three very experienced skippers in Peter Wegener, Lynton Jones and Graham Wakefield.

A new signing is Ron VanTijn from metro club Hawthorn. 

I am sure the players will still be final four contenders.

This is a crucial season of bowls for the RSL players, they did produce at times last season that got their supporters excited but didn’t contribute consistently enough to stay a menace over the long haul.

This season could be different; the club has received an influx of new bowlers who will strengthen in all divisions. 

“Chook” Kennedy, Neil Zander, Clem Tynan, Di O’Connell, Mike Bristow, Phil and Steve McNamara and Steve Keough.

The latter from Oakbank who is expected to be a replacement for former skipper Trevor Pevic.

Time will tell but at the moment there is an air of confidence coming out of RSL with sights fixed on the finals in all grades including mid – week.

Karoonda has picked up a ready-made skipper’s in Kim Tomkinson and Gary Zadow but need a couple more of that calibre in the line-up to consistently trouble the top five. 

As I peer into the crystal ball I find as usual the first round results are always well camouflaged, so I am not expecting too much accuracy with my first up predictions.

Jervois at home will be just a bit too good for Bridge Blue and while it won’t ease the pain of the grand final loss the early points will be vital.

The RSL report has impressed me, the players still have a lot to prove and also acclimatise to new surroundings.

I  reckon they can get get the ball rolling with a win against Bridge White.

A lot will however depend on “Bristles and Bones”.

Karoonda will be far and away better prepared than Tailem Bend and win on the grass green which is almost always in very good condition. 

Tailem Bend has shook off Meningie as the early nemesis but now might find the Mallee line-up the heir apparent.

Mannum have the bye.

Division two

When the top division suffers a player drain around the association it reverberates throughout the lower grades.

 With that in mind my predictions will be somewhat guess work until we get through the first round.

In a tight contest Bridge Green to beat Jervois Red at Murray Bridge.

Last season’s dominators Mannum will carry on where they left off with a win against Bridge Red.

At this early stage it remains a mystery how Tailem Bend will line up so I will go for Karoonda at home to get an early start.

Jervois Black started very slowly last season but will be better equipped to defeat RSL and should appreciate some early points.

Meningie have the bye.

Division three

It’s also unknown just how Meningie will line up but I do have a feeling this side presented will be good enough to get the points against Bridge Grey.

I’m going for Tailem Bend Gold to get on top of RSL and last season’s strong Bridge Purple colour to beat Tailem Bend Blue.

Mannum usually comes up fairly strong and the Green colour  will probably be too good for Jervois, while Mannum Gold at home could have the measure of Karoonda.

Departing: Murray Bridge Blue's Ruby Traeger delivers the bowl down the green during a match last season. Photo: William Bailey.

Departing: Murray Bridge Blue's Ruby Traeger delivers the bowl down the green during a match last season. Photo: William Bailey.