A top class field of forty-two players from seventeen countries will compete for honours at next month’s World Youth Championship in Australia.
Commencing on March 27 for seven days, the newly rebranded world event for competitors aged 18 to 25 features twenty-one men and twenty-one women competing in singles and mixed pairs at the magnificent Broadbeach Bowls Club on Queensland’s Gold Coast.
This is the third incarnation of the only under-age competition conducted by World Bowls, the sport’s global governing body, having started out as the World Junior Cup in 2005 then changing to the World Junior Championships in 2013.
The wise decision taken last year to rebrand the annual competition as a ‘youth’ event was welcomed by all sectors, especially the players, who regarded ‘junior’ as unsuitable, considering there were husbands and wives, even some mothers and fathers, competing within the age group.
And it is interesting to note that last year’s ‘junior’ singles champion Aaron Wilson from Australia skipped veteran Jackaroo Brett Wilkie to pairs gold at the recent World Championships in New Zealand.
Women’s champion Ellen Ryan, fresh from her under-25 world indoor singles triumph in England last month, returns to defend her title. The teenage Aussie sensation also won last year’s mixed pairs with Aaron Teys, and they will reunite to be a formidable combination at Broadbeach next month.
The 2018 Commonwealth Games bowls venue has been a happy hunting ground for Aaron and Ellen, who rocked the establishment when they captured the 2015 Australian Open men’s and women’s singles crowns there.
Teys will naturally be one of the men to beat, as will fellow Aussie Nathan Pedersen, a big match specialist who has won the past two Australian Open and Hong Kong Classic pairs titles.
But keep an eye out for brave young Malaysian Izzat Dzulkeple, who won his national Champion of Champions singles title this week (beating former world champion Safuan Said in the final), and was runner-up in this event at Broadbeach in 2015.
And Jersey’s Ross Davis, who was the only competitor to beat Aaron Wilson last year, will also give a very good account of himself, as will the experienced Sheldon Bagrie-Howley from New Zealand. But, it should be remembered that every competitor is an international representative and no one should be discounted.
Even Ellen Ryan, who is riding a rich vein of form, will have her work cut out to repeat last year’s success in the women’s competition. Malaysia’s Syafiqa Rahman, who was silver medallist to her, will be hoping to go one better this time around, while the previous two champions, Australia’s Kristina Krstic and Chloe Stewart, will also have a big say in the outcome.
Of course New Zealand’s classy Tayla Bruce and Canada’s rising starlet Pricilla Westlake could easily snare the ultimate prize, as could Norfolk Island’s Shae Wilson and Ysie White from Wales.
It promises to be a compelling week of international bowls at one of the world’s greatest venues.
The field for the 2017 World Youth Championships at Broadbeach Bowls Club on Australia’s Gold Coast is:
Men: Gariga Babona (Papua New Guinea), Sheldon Bagrie-Howley (New Zealand), Lucas Caldwell (Canada), Ross Davis (Jersey), Izzat Dzulkeple (Malaysia), John Fleming (Scotland), Kenneth Ikirima (Papua New Guinea), Rob Law (Canada), Aqmal Mustakim (Malaysia), Cabous Olivier (Namibia), Nathan Pedersen (Australia), Lawrence Paniani (Cook Islands), Taiki Paniani (Cook Islands), James Po (Hong Kong China), Connor Rabey (Guernsey), Daniel Salmon (Wales), Martin Sham (Hong Kong China), Aaron Tennant (Ireland), Aaron Teys (Australia), Carlos Tigere (Botswana), Mustafa Zaini (Brunei).
Women: Rose Baso (Papua New Guinea), Tayla Bruce (New Zealand), Piwen Karkar (Papua New Guinea), Kristina Krstic (Australia), Nicole LeBlanc (Canada), Joey Luk (Hong Kong China), Nooroa Mataio (Cook Islands), Lesego Motladille (Bostwana), Colleen Paniani (Cook Islands), Sophie Rabey (Guernsey), Syafiqa Rahman (Malaysia), Connie Rixon (Malta), Ellen Ryan (Australia), Emma Snell (Guernsey), Angela So (Hong Kong China), Chloe Stewart (Australia), Claire Walker (Scotland), Pricilla Westlake (Canada), Ysie White (Wales), Shae Wilson (Norfolk Island), Linda Zakaria (Malaysia).
Photo: Last year’s women’s singles champion Ellen Ryan from Australia with fellow Aussie and gold-medal-winning mixed pairs partner Aaron Teys.