Gray leads Berwick trio to PAKY 5000 triumph

(L-R) Pakenham Bowls Club president Gian Pianezzola with the winning trio of Darren Bellingham, Tim Gray and Vince Merceli. Picture: SUPPLIED

Quality bowlers from across the greater Melbourne area and a number of country regions gathered at Pakenham Bowls Club over the weekend, along with local Pakenham bowlers, to compete in the annual PAKY 5000 tournament.

This premier, blue ribbon event is conducted over two days and offers over $5000 in prizemoney.

In addition, it is listed by Bowls Australia as a National Player Rankings event, thus adding to its prestige.

Many of the bowlers who play in this tournament return year after year and a number of former Pakenham members come back for the weekend, bringing with them players from their new clubs.

In past years there have even been teams from interstate clubs – that was not quite the case this year although there was a composite team with two players from Picola (near Echuca), with a skipper from Kallangur (a Northern suburb of Brisbane) and a single entry from Alice Springs!

The format for the tournament was two bowl triples, with four games of 12 ends scheduled for the Saturday with a further three on the Sunday.

However this year the program for the first day was shortened to three games out of consideration for the number of players who had a significant distance to travel at each end of the day.

Nevertheless, that is still a lot of bowling so it is not surprising that some players were dragging their feet by the completion of the last end on day two.

The weather on Saturday was pretty much as forecast and the few spots of rain which did fall did not even dampen spirits, let alone interrupt play.

However it seemed that the rain gods were not going to be so kind on Sunday, as for the first hour or so it rained quite heavily at times, but fortunately there was very little after that.

Although there was serious prize money involved, all games were played in good spirit and players kept in mind that one of the first aims of the game of bowls is to have fun.

However towards the end of day two, it was evident that the level of competition had (naturally) increased in intensity among those teams which were in the running for the major prizes.

Unlike last year when there was only one team with wins from all of the day one games, this year on Saturday night there were five (admittedly with only three to play), with team Paris (Alan Hilton) sitting on top of the leader board with 54 points, followed by Timothy Gray (Berwick) on 52, Steve ‘Krusty’ Bentley (Cranbourne composite) on 51, Chris Owen (Parkdale/Cranbourne) on 50 and Geoff ‘Voota’ Van Vugt (Pakenham/Cardinia Waters) on 49.

There were also a number of likely contenders with two strong wins breathing down their necks, so Sunday was shaping up to be a very interesting day indeed.

As is customary at this tournament, day one was capped off with a free sausage sizzle and a corner-to-corner shoot out.

Although light-hearted and fun, this is usually a hotly contested event with entrants attempting to qualify multiple bowls for the final, usually accompanied by a great deal of sledging from the other competitors and spectators, although this year that was noticeably less intense, probably because the event was conducted at the opposite end of the green to the sausage sizzle where many (hungry) players were gathered with their mouths and hands full.

At first it appeared that nobody would land a qualifying bowl but eventually there were half a dozen or so contenders who managed to put one on the target, including last year’s winner, David Saint.

Appropriately, Jennifer Bainbridge, who joined in at the last minute, after helping Jan Moore cook the sausages, won first prize with Terry ‘T-Mac’ McRedmond very close in second.

On Sunday morning, those teams which had been drawn to play on the Banks green for game one were grateful for the shelter of the Paky Dome while those on the bottom (uncovered) Crowley green were forced to contend with the elements.

After the fifth game, the leaderboard had changed considerably – of the original top three, only Gray (with five wins) remained with Dean Kuran (Middle Park) having taken second place and former winner Lucas Protopapas (Heathmont) jumping into third.

However at that stage, although the team from Berwick seemed to have a mortgage on first spot, the minor placings were still wide open – therefore, there was a lot riding on the final game.

Gray’s team beat another Berwick trio (Bondy’s mob) to cement top spot while Kuran went down to Gian ‘The Doctor’ Pianezzola’s Pakenham crew and dropped out of contention.

Lucas’ team recorded a good win to snatch second spot while ‘Krusty’s players came from the pack to grab third.

In the end, there was only one six game winner which took the major $3000 prize.

That was Berwick’s Gray, Darren Bellingham and Vince Merceli.

After losing the first game of the weekend, Heathmont’s Protopapas, Nic Dawe and Earl Mathison bounced back, winning the next five on the trot to grab second prize while Bentley, Josh McQueen and Steve ‘Sticks’ Ellard, also with five wins, took third.

Pakenham’s Saint and Hilton had five wins as well, but were out of the (big) money.

In addition to the major awards, there were prizes for the teams which had the best results on day one and day two (not having won a major prize).

Best for day one was team Paris –Hilton, Kevin ‘Smurf” Murphy and Ian ‘Ezee’ Miller (three wins), while the day two honours went to the composite team of Wayne Lynch, John Curtain and Mick Morgan (also three wins).

Although the numbers were slightly down, with a couple of late withdrawals, the PAKY 5000 has again been a great success, thanks to the generosity of the sponsors, to the competitors who turned up to play two incredible days of bowls in wonderful spirit, the volunteers on the greens, behind the bar and elsewhere behind the scenes who worked very hard to make it happen and the organisers (principally Jen Bainbridge and Gian Pianezzola) who spent countless hours putting it all together.

A special mention also must go to Peter Bowman who kept track of everything on his trusty spreadsheets while also acting as the main umpire.

The Pakenham Bowls Club looks forward to hosting this tournament for many years into the future and we trust that the players from other clubs who have taken part will continue to come back to support the event and to enjoy our hospitality.

-Des Leigh-