In a breathtaking performance, the Brisbane Pirates have been crowned the Bowls Premier League (BPL08) champions in front of their buoyant home crowd, beating the Moama Murray Steamers in a straight sets finale.
Hosted at the stunning Club Pine Rivers complex, four of the top franchises were left to hunt the silverware heading into the eagerly anticipated “Finals Night”, and with a $25,000 cheque on the line, the tournament conclusion was always promising to be something special.
After 14 gruelling round-robin games over four days, the BPL ladder proved to be the tightest fought edition yet, with only a game or two separating the top and bottom ranked side, reflecting the true quality on show throughout the eight franchises.
In an impressive showing, the New Zealand Blackjacks, with their debutant Seamus Curtin and experienced campaigners Jo Edwards and Ali Forsyth, saw their play-off hopes dashed after a 13th round loss to eventual runner-ups, while for the Gold Coast Hawks and five-time BPL champion Aron Sherriff, a matter of shot differential ended their dream run in an agonisingly close effort for Sherriff to search an unprecedented sixth victory.
As the dust settled on day four, the Moama outfit topped the standings, with the Brisbane Pirates running second, Melbourne Roys third and the Perth Suns edging in as the fourth qualifier on countback – with the latter teams going head-to-head in the Elimination Final in what proved to be a worthy entree to the night’s proceedings to follow.
A dominant display from the all Jackaroo side of Aaron Wilson, Barrie Lester and Carla Krizanic saw the previously underperformed line-up advance through to the semi-final, with high hopes heading into their match-up opposite the loser of the Preliminary Final.
A thrilling encounter ensued between the Steamers and Pirates, with two of the world’s best exponents in five-time Commonwealth Games Gold medallist Alex Marshall and Canadian master blaster Ryan Bester trading blow for blow on their road to the final, with a tie-break finish required to separate the sides and the first Grand Finale berth going the way of the Steamers in a nail-biting wrap.
A second bite of the cherry for Marshall and Co saw the Brisbane trio, coached by former Blackjacks coach Dave Edwards, fire up and throw everything at the Roys, and despite the best efforts of Wilson, Lester and Krizanic, it was the Alex Marshall show ably backed up by double Commonwealth Games medallist Kelsey Cottrell and hometown hero Michael Breen, with Brisbane controlling the second set and holding their nerve in a scintillating tie-break conclusion to set up a blockbuster second clash against the Steamers.
With the crowd in full voice, Marshall and his Pirates appeared in no mood for a repeat performance of the earlier action, with revenge and redemption clearly their only goal heading into the tournament’s feature match-up.
Yet again, Marshall, who previously won the BPL trophy with the Murray Steamers in BPL02, turned the tables and put on a masterclass display as they dispatched Ryan Bester and his side of Michael Walker and Tiffany Brodie – claiming Brisbane’s second BPL honours and leaving Bester and Co. to ponder what might have been.
However, consolation for Bester arrived in the form of the Most Valuable Player award in a fitting gesture that reflected his blistering form and contribution made through the tournament.
The ninth edition of the BPL will return to New Zealand next February.