WIDELY recognised as one of the biggest lawn bowls events in the state, the Victorian Open had landed in the Latrobe Valley for the second consecutive year.

In mid-2022, Bowls Victoria and Latrobe City Council announced a five-year agreement to stage the Victoria Open in the Latrobe Valley, beginning last year.

The event is set to inject millions of dollars into the region through a plethora of portals that bowlers from all over Australia will use.

From March 19 to 28, hundreds of bowlers made their way to a number of Latrobe Valley bowling greens to get the competition started.

Traralgon, Traralgon RSL, Churchill, Morwell, Yinnar, Newborough, Moe, Boolarra, and Heyfield where the Latrobe Valley bowling clubs to help host the Victorian Open. The remaining host clubs were Yarragon, Sale, West Sale, Maffra, Warragul, Stratford, and Longwarry.

People of all ages and from different parts of the world took part, producing some interesting stories all over the region.

Despite not enduring any successes in the form of titles, an interesting story came from a family from San Fransisco.

Marcus Zeino and his 13-year-old daughter, Adilyn, came from the US to compete at the Victorian Open.

Marcus was not taking part this time around, but his daughter was in action, coming up against adults, all while adjusting to the Latrobe Valley greens.

The sections on offers included the mixed pairs, and the men’s and women’s singles, pairs and triples.

More than $80,000 was set for the total prize pool, which would be divided up between winners, runners-up, semi-finalists and quarter-finalists.


Women’s Triples

THE first final to take place was the women’s triples, which concluded on Tuesday, March 26 at the Traralgon Bowling Club.

Scheduled to go ahead on the following morning, Bowls Victoria decided to play the Final early with time up their sleeves.

Entering the Final was the trio of Olivia Slade (Lilydale), Olivia Cartwright and Cass Millerick (Moama), coming up against Julie Simpson (Lakes Entrance), Margery Nathan and Jo Martin (Paynesville).

The first Final turned out to be one of the best finals, as the scores were tied at 14-all after the 14th end, with only one end to play the winner would take all.

It would go the way of Slade, Cartwright and Millerick, gaining one shot to win 15-14 after 15 ends.

Ladies: The winners of the women’s triples was Olivia Slade (Lilydale), Olivia Cartwright and Cass Millerick (Moama). Photograph: Tom Hayes


Mixed Pairs

DUE to the rescheduling of the women’s triples, the mixed pairs got the Finals underway on Wednesday, March 27 at the Morwell Bowling Club.

The duo of Sophie Kurzman (Sunbury) and Dylan Fisher (Moonee Valley) would face Tris Doolan (Richmond Union) and Michael Wilson (MCC).

Doolan and Wilson only just edged their way into the Final, needing to play an extra end in their semi-final, with the scores all tied after 15 ends.

However, they would need more luck to fall their way in the Final, as Kurzman and Fisher eased themselves to victory, winning 18-6.

Duo: Mixed pairs winners Dylan Fisher (Moonee Valley) and Sophie Kurzman (Sunbury). Photograph: Tom Hayes

The young duo of Kurzman and Fisher continued their hot form all of the way through the tournament to take out the mixed doubles title.


Men’s Triples

NEXT up was the men’s triples, which was a rollercoaster Final.

Dale Verhagen (Stratford), Mark Stanaway and Phil Crowder (Mt Eliza) took on Daniel Joyce (Altona), Troy Kreyan and Will Ainger (Yarraville-Footscray).

The Yarraville-Footscray/Altona triple proved to be a handful early, going up by a number of shots in the opening ends.

But it wouldn’t be for long, as the Stratford/Mt Eliza triple would soon gain shots from consecutive ends, to eventually tie then take the lead.

Verhagen, Stanaway and Crowder would run away with the Final, stretching to a seven shot unassailable lead after 14 ends, winning 17-10.

Trio: The triple of Dale Verhagen (Stratford), Mark Stanaway and Phil Crowder (Mt Eliza) won the men’s triples. Photograph: Tom Hayes


Women’s Pairs

THE women’s pairs concluded play on Wednesday at the Morwell Bowling Club, when Selina Goddard (Takapuna, New Zealand) and Millerick teamed up against Kurzman and Samantha Atkinson (Richmond Union).

Goddard has quite the resume in the world of bowls, with her career beginning at the age of 14.

She is a two-time national singles champion (2017, 2023), one-time pairs champion (2020) and two-time fours champion (2014, 2020).

Goddard has also competed at the World Outdoor Championships, taking bronze in 2023, as well as claiming medals at two Commonwealth Games: taking bronze in Glasgow in 2014 (fours), and two more bronze medals in Birmingham in 2022 (pairs, fours).

It was always going to be hard for Kurzman and Atkinson to get past this duo.

They started as best as they could, with Kurzman and Atkinson taking a 4-1 lead after four ends, but they would soon find themselves chasing.

Goddard and Millerick slowly but surely kept the scoreboard ticking over, eventually having their own four-shot lead.

By then, the win was within reach, and they expertly kept their opposition at bay to hold a 12-8 lead after 15 ends to take the women’s pairs title.


Men’s Pairs

THE final day of play began with the men’s pairs Final at the Traralgon Bowling Club, as Deer Park’s Chris Ball and Jay Bye-Norris did battle with Tyson Cromie (Ocean Grove) and Brett Mahoney (Yarraville-Footscray).

It took the Deer Park guys just a little bit to get going, but they soon found the form they had displayed in the sectional rounds and finals leading up to the decider.

Starting 4-0 down after three ends, after three more ends, the Deer Park pair soon had a 6-4 lead.

Cromie and Mahoney struggled to keep up with the momentum of Ball and Bye-Norris, as the latter powered on to win 16-8 after 15 ends.

Team: Deer Park’s Chris Ball and Jay Bye-Norris took out the men’s pairs. Photograph: Tom Hayes


Participation Awards

AFTER the men’s pairs was played, the announcement of the Club Participation Awards was made – a new addition to the prize pool.

Winning the regional club award was Ocean Grove Bowls Club, accepted by Cromie after coming runner-up in the men’s pairs final moments earlier.

Dandenong Club won the metropolitan award, but funnily enough, no one was at the Traralgon Bowling Club to accept the participation award.


Women’s Singles

ALL that was left to play was the men’s and women’s singles, starting of with the ladies.

Richmond Union’s Atkinson would feature in her second final after losing the women’s pairs the day before, coming up against Clayton’s Lisa Phillips.

What was probably more exciting was the semi-finals that led to the Final, as Atkinson got the win over Natasha van Eldik (Raymond Terrace) 21-19, which went down to the wire, and Phillips dispatched the highly esteemed Goddard 21-20, which saw a massive comeback where Phillips was down 18-9 at one point.

The Final was no different, but it went the way of Atkinson, who edged out Phillips in an epic Final that finished 21-18 in her favour.

On top: Richmond Union’s Samantha Atkinson. Photograph: Tom Hayes

Both women were grateful to make it to the Final, handing out brilliant speeches of acceptance after the hard-fought Final.


Men’s Singles

TO wrap up the event, the men’s singles Final was one that kept spectators glued to their seats.

As the day grew older, a few in the crowd fought tiredness to stay and continue watching.

The back-and forth battle between Koroit’s Scott Boschen and Pakenham’s Neville Brown went down to the wire of course.

Down 19-20, Boschen called for an umpires’ measure, believing to have held two shots, refusing to bowl his final shot, to the disbelief of everyone in attendance.

Millimetre-perfect: The men’s singles Final came down to an umpires’ measure. Photograph: Tom Hayes

The umpires measure confirmed the win for Boschen after his brave call, wrapping up the event, as he went on to record the win 21-20.


Most Success

THE Barb Gilbert Medal was awarded to Millerick, as the bowler to have the most success throughout the Victorian Open.

She came away with titles in the women’s pairs and triples, as well as finishing in the Round of 16 in the singles and Quarter Finals in the mixed pairs.

With three years left on the current agreement, the Victorian Open will be in the Latrobe Valley, until 2027.