THE biggest week in the history of bowls in Griffith has begun, with the Exies Masters Triples tournament officially under way, bringing some of the best-known stars of the sport to the city.
Months of work has culminated in a star-studded line-up for the $21,000 prize pool, as some of the best players in the world do battle on the local greens.
The tournament has attracted five current Australian players and all proceeds raised from the tournament will go towards the setting up of the first junior bowls academy in Griffith to attract young bowlers to the game.
However, the tournament kicked off last night with a $1000 shoot-out where regular players could line up with and against their heroes.
“The shoot-out has been pretty well supported by the local players, so there will be about 100 players out there on the night,” co-organiser Peter Thornton said.
“But the whole week is about trying to get some publicity for the game, so people realise that it’s a young person’s game that an older person can play because a lot of people have misconceptions about it.”
Just one of the big names that touched down yesterday afternoon, is Queenslander Mark Casey, who said the Masters could be the starting point of a golden age of the sport in the city.
“I have not seen something like this in a country area before, obviously Peter (Thornton) and those who worked behind the scenes have worked really hard to try and get this tournament up and going,” Casey said.
“The prizemoney is the main attraction, but it’s also good to get out to the areas where we probably haven’t been to before, so hopefully this keeps going.
“The first year is probably the hardest year to run so if it’s a success, I think they’ll have more players keen to travel to the tournament and next year will be even bigger.”
Despite having already won the Australian Indoor Championship and the national singles title this year, Casey said his team will need to play exceptionally well to win this week.
“It’s going to be a really tough tournament and it might come down to getting a bit of luck in the draw,” he said.
“Our team’s really good on paper, but hopefully we can have a good tournament.”
Casey will be looking to knock off the likes of world number two Leif Selby, number four Aron Sheriff and 16-time world champion Alex Marshall.
While international players such as New Zealander Ali Forsyth and Scottish international Peter Bonsor, who also represented Spain, will have their eyes on the big prize.
Among the stars of the greens are a host of locals who will get the rare chance to lock horns with their idols, with Frank Villata, Paddy McClellan, Ross Elliott, Pat Trimboli, John Tappi, Mick Kilby, Adrian Hill, Nev Cullen and John King just some of the lucky few to qualify.
A dinner will be held tonight at the Exies Club with play set to begin from 9.15am this morning and Thursday, with spectators encouraged to watch the stars do battle.