Champion Rushworth bowler Jean Sprague’s fifth Goulburn Valley Champion of Champions title yesterday brought her within one of the association’s all-time record.By Marc McGowan
Champion Rushworth bowler Jean Sprague’s fifth Goulburn Valley Champion of Champions title yesterday brought her within one of the association’s all-time record.
Only Shepparton Park life member Edna Harling’s six crowns betters Sprague’s haul, which includes victories in 2004, 2007, 2011, 2012 and this year.
Sprague, 58, did it the hard way, winning three matches in blistering heat at Euroa Bowls Club yesterday.
The first was over her arch-rival and previous champion, Mooroopna’s Stacey Collier (25-18), before defeating East Shepparton’s Josie Michielin (25-17) in the semi-finals and Shepparton Park’s Di Hands (25-22) in a top-class decider.
‘‘It’s wonderful, but I’m buggered. Tomorrow I’ll think it’s wonderful,’’ Sprague said, like only she could.
‘‘I knew the one against Stacey, if it went as normal, would be a long game and it was and Josie pushed her game up, too.
‘‘I keep thinking each year I’m that bit older and it does get a bit tougher. Today, the three games was a big thing, but that was my doing.’’
Sprague was scheduled to play Collier on Wednesday, but negotiated the contest to be moved to yesterday, because she played on a different green and there was a long period since her first match.
The conditions seemed to have taken its toll midway through the final, as Hands came from 2-7 down to lead 18-14 in the race to 25.
That was when the momentum swung again.
Sprague was holding two shots, but Hands’ last attempt on the end was too heavy and also removed her closest bowl to give her Rushworth opponent another shot before she drew a fourth to level the contest at 18.
A reenergised Sprague rarely wavered from near the kitty from that point, forcing Hands to turn aggressive, but the former surged 22-19 ahead.
Sprague finally dipped her high standard — even if it was only for one end — and Hands was ready to pounce.
She landed her first bowl on the kitty and kept adding to her tally — almost claiming four shots, but instead settling for a game-tying three.
But Sprague was back on target the next end, heaping the pressure on when she held two shots before Hands’ final bowl.
Hands was close, but her bowl travelled past to give Sprague the opportunity to draw a third shot and take out the title, which she duly did.
It was Hands’ first time in the Goulburn Valley Champion of Champions final. Her previous best was a quarter-final finish.
‘‘I’m a bit disappointed. It could have gone either way, but she held tight and I dropped three on the last end and I should never have done that,’’ Hands said.
‘‘She was just too good and held it together and I lost it in a couple of ends. I’m pleased with how I bowled over the two days.’’
Sprague said she was confident of performing well at the regional stage at Alexandra Bowls Club on March 3.
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