ANOTHER year of the EnergyAustralia Classic Singles event came to a close after an exciting week at the Newborough Bowls Club, which saw two club teammates go head-to-head in the final.

After three days of spirited competition, only four remained on the fourth and final day of the event last Friday (January 5).

In the semi-finals, Warilla’s Corey Wedlock faced off against 2014 Classic Singles champion, Tony Schiavello, while Northern Ireland’s Gary Kelly, also representing Warilla, had to get past Pakenham’s Geoff van Vugt.

It was destined to be an all-Warilla final, as Kelly eased past van Vugt, 25-11, and Wedlock endured an almighty battle against Bundoora’s Schiavello, getting up 25-22.

Spectators: Onlookers surrounded the green for the final, highlighted by a packed crowd in front of social rooms. Photographs: Tom Hayes

Coming into the final, Wedlock and Kelly had previously gone head-to-head on eight occasions, Wedlock holding bragging rights winning five of those matches.

But that wasn’t going to have much effect on Kelly, as anything could happen in a final.

Not only do both finalists play at the same club, but both experienced Premier League bowls together at Bundoora, so it’s fair to say these two were mates, and knew what was coming from one another.

There was no breathing space for either entrant in the final, going shot-for-shot in the first 15 minutes of the final.

Scores were tied at 6-6 early in the piece, before the tide started to sway in Wedlock’s direction.

Before you could blink, Wedlock had drawn out to a five-shot lead, 11-6, but Kelly was not down and out just yet.

To keep the final exciting, Kelly was not ready to give in, drawing back to within one shot, trailing 12-11, before gusty conditions arrived.

Compete: Gary Kelly keeps himself in the final.

Windy conditions began to make things tough for the finalists, as grunts and groans were heard moments after releasing a shot, knowing bowls weren’t going to reach their intended targets.

Nonetheless, that variation left the door open for anyone to take an advantage, it was just a question of who.

Despite the wind, Wedlock remained calm and composed to stretch his lead, going from 12-11, to 14-11, then 17-11, and 18-12 in just a handful of ends.

With a six-shot lead, victory was in sight for Wedlock, and he wasted no time in doing so, setting himself up perfectly for the title.

Just when it looks like Wedlock would pocket two or three shots from an end, Kelly would be forced to resort to driving the bowl, in hopes of softening the blow.

Yet, it was to no avail, as he had no luck when it came to his drives, and even when he made connection, nothing was going his way.

Luckily for Wedlock, this allowed him to ease to victory, as it only took three ends for him to rack up the remaining seven shots on offer needed to win.

Victorious: Corey Wedlock on his way to the title.

In the final three ends, Wedlock went from 20-12, to 23-12, then finally 25-12 to claim the 27th EnergyAustralia Classic Singles title.

Despite the monster margin in the final, it didn’t take anything away from the battle, which was full of separate tactics, as both players were forced to make vital decisions.

In the end, the right gameplan won, and the pressure seemed to get to Kelly, as he watched his teammate take the crown.

Kelly was admirable in defeat, thanking the Newborough Bowls Club for putting on the event.

“Just want to say a huge thank you to all the members, the volunteers and staff here at the club, what an amazing achievement – 27 years, absolutely fantastic,” Kelly said.

“Thank you so much for having me here, it’s and absolute honour and privilege to play in front of you guys, I tried my best.

“I look forward to being here next year,” Kelly concluded, followed by a round of applause.

Before crowning the winner, EnergyAustralia’s Meredith Bowden announced that the major sponsor would continue to back the Classic Singles until at least 2028, the same year the Yallourn power station is set to close.

Congrats: Latrobe City Councillor Sharon Gibson, Classic Singles champion Corey Wedlock, EnergyAustralia’s Meredith Bowden, and runner-up Gary Kelly pose after presentations.

The extended partnership would surpass the 30th anniversary of the Classic Singles, set to be held in 2027, which also marks 100 years of the bowling club.

Wedlock was presented his winner’s cheque, completing a successful first visit to Newborough.

“I loved every minute of it, all the support and everyone has just been so friendly so I can’t thank you enough,” he said.

“It’s one of the best tournaments I’ve been to, there’s so many people roaming around trying to help and trying to accommodate you.”

The plans for the 2025 Classic Singles is already underway, with the next event set to be played from January 6-9, 2025.

Local: Churchill’s Chris Thomas gave it his all during the Classic Singles.
Veteran: Traralgon’s Chris Ward returned for another Classic Singles event.
Champion: Six-time Classic Singles winner Barrie Lester eased through his section with a 35-shot difference.