THE Bendigo Bowls Division season gets under way on Saturday. LUKE WEST takes a look at the eight teams to fight for the pennant in division one.
Last season – 1st (15-2), defeated Bendigo East in grand final
Bendigo heads into the new season as the hunted after finally capturing that elusive premiership last March.
Bendigo’s thrilling 92-88 win over Bendigo East in the grand final was the club’s first flag since 1980 and removed a massive monkey off its back.
The club has lost two players from the premiership team in Geoff Briggs and John Cassidy.
The recruits include Eaglehawk pair Ian Brown and Bruce Morley, and while there will be some changes to the line-ups, Bendigo looks mighty hard to stop again.
Bendigo is sticking with the same four skippers as last season – why change a winning formula.
Skippers: Andrew Brown, Ian Ross, Gary Carberry, Torie Babitsch.
Prediction – Premiers
Last season – 2nd (11-5), lost to Bendigo in grand final
Bendigo East was denied a premiership four-peat last season when beaten by Bendigo by four shots in the grand final.
And there has been some significant change at the club, with six members of the grand final team on the move.
Marc Smith and Brad Marron have crossed to Golden Square, Darren Burgess and Aaron Tomkins have joined Essendon in the Melbourne Premier League, while Matt Robertson and Tait Fuller aren’t playing for the club.
With Burgess and Tomkins gone, the club has two new skippers in Paul Moller and Jack Clough.
There will be three generations of the Clough family in the team this season – Alby, Jack, Robert and the youngest, Danny.
Skippers: David Keenan, Brad Holland, Paul Moller, Jack Clough.
Prediction – 4th
Last season – 6th (5-9)
Castlemaine will be hoping it can start like it did last season and maintain its form throughout the 14 rounds.
The side sat second on the ladder with a 3-1 record after four rounds last season, but faded, winning just two of its last 10 games to finish sixth.
Geoff Walsh has come across from Strathfieldsaye to skip, while Rick Parr is also a new skipper.
Recruits to Castlemaine include John Morris from Winchlesea, Bernie McConnell from Strathfieldsaye and Darren Taylor.
The club, which won its last division one flag in 1999, is confident it can improve on last season’s sixth-place finish.
Skippers: Geoff Walsh, Rod Phillips, Peter Brain, Rick Parr.
Prediction – 6th
Last season – 3rd (8-7-1), lost to Bendigo in preliminary final
The perennial power of the BBD has had a turnover from last season’s team that bowed out in the preliminary final.
Gone are Bruce Morley and Ian Brown to Bendigo and former skipper Gary Beckham is at Golden Square
The Hawks welcome back Terry Gilmore from Cohuna and Gunbower, with Gilmore to take on skipper duties.
Joining Gilmore in the list of recruits is Glen Thatcher from Mooroopna and Brayden Byrne returns from Bendigo.
And the side will also have a 13-year-old player in Dallen Klemke, who will get a crack at the top level.
The Hawks haven’t missed the finals since 2000 and still have the talent to keep that record intact for another season.
Skippers: Phil Godkin, Simon Carter, Terry Gilmore, Tony Ellis.
Prediction – 3rd
Last season – 4th (10-5), lost minor semi-final to Eaglehawk
Golden Square has had a big crack on the recruiting trail as it aims to end a premiership drought that stretches back to 1963.
Joining Golden Square are Bendigo East pair Marc Smith and Brad Marron, who will both skip, Gary Beckham from Eaglehawk and Peter Bush from Gippsland.
Also returning to Golden Square is Paul O’Brien, who was the club champion two years ago.
As well as skippering a rink, Smith is also coaching the club.
Since returning to the top division in 2007-08, Golden Square has finished 3rd, 4th, 6th, 7th, 6th and 4th.
With their inclusions, can they make the big step-up from also-rans to premiers?
They get the chance to make an immediate statement first-up Saturday when they take on defending premiers Bendigo.
Skippers: Brad Marron, Marc Smith, Tas Wallis, Barry Anset.
Prediction – 2nd
Last season – 7th (3-11)
It has been a battle to win games for Inglewood since its return to the top division in 2008-09.
The side has finished no higher than seventh the past five years, but Inglewood continues to chip away and is certainly no easybeats on its home green.
Inglewood has recruited Kevin Tonkin from Wedderburn and South Bendigo’s Damien Mason, who is also doubling as coach, which has helped to create increased enthusiasm within the club.
Inglewood won three games last season, so improving on that figure would be a good starting point going into this campaign.
Skippers: Mal McLean, Frank Carbone, Ian Chamberlain, Lindsay Kelly.
Prediction – 7th
Last season – 5th (6-7-1)
Can the Roos hop their way back into the finals after finishing fifth the past two seasons?
The Roos have had six months to ponder last season’s missed opportunity when a loss to Eaglehawk in the last round cost them their position in the finals.
They are sticking with the same four skippers as last season.
However, with Dean Carter and Geoff Boyd to be missing early, Ross Trevethan and Mal Darroch will start with the skipper duties.
In a major positive for the club, the Roos haven’t lost any players from last season, while they have gained James Oliver, who has played at Castlemaine and Moonee Ponds, Golden Square’s Mal Beer and Trevethan and Paul Darroch from Castlemaine.
The Roos are confident they have more depth this season, which should hold them in good stead.
Skippers: Dean Carter, Darryl Rowley, Geoff Boyd, John Carter.
Prediction – 5th
Last season – second in division two.
It has been a long haul, but South Bendigo is finally back in division one.
Finished second in division two last season when beaten by Bendigo East in the grand final, but South Bendigo has taken the place of Strathfieldsaye, which claimed three of the past four wooden spoons.
South Bendigo last played in the top division in 2007-08, before being relegated for the first time in its history.
It’s always a tough ask for the new side to make an impact in the top division.
The club simply aims to be competitive and strive to ensure it avoids relegation danger after the hard work of the past five years.
Skippers: Ray McCumber, Frank Byrne, John Knott, Noel Wilkinson.
Prediction – 8th
Bendigo East v Eaglehawk
Castlemaine v Kangaroo Flat
Bendigo v Golden Square
Inglewood v South Bendigo