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Fresh from a premiership last season, Victoria is looking to challenge once again in 2021-22

Shaun Clark plays a bowl against Learmonth Bowling Club

It has been a longer than usual wait for the new Ballarat Highlands Bowls Region season to start, but it is now just around the corner, meaning Victoria’s title defence can officially begin.

The 2020-21 season was a strong one from start to finish for the eventual premiers, winning through to second on the ladder come the end of the regular season.

Victoria finished with a league-best +145 shot differential, 36 better than the next best side, BMS.

It did trail BMS on points by nine, however, keeping it in second place.

The finals is when Victoria found its groove, taking care of third-placed Sebastopol 60-45 in a semi final, before leading Ballarat all day to claim a 60-54 victory in a grand final.

The Courier caught up with club captain Shaun Clark to chat about the upcoming season for Victoria.

1. How has the preparation for the season been?
It has been interrupted, the club had organised a few practice matches but they had to be cancelled … because of COVID. We’ve had our own … training sessions, we’ve just organised them and got a few more of them to go before the season starts.

2. What are the emotions like heading into the season given what everyone has been through this year?
Everyone’s pretty excited, I think everyone’s ready to go now to be honest. That’s been the talk around the club, everyone just wants to get the season started. We were meant to start, I think its usually the first weekend in October, everyone was sort of looking forward to that, then we knew it was going to be delayed. I think everyone’s just keen to get it up and going.

3. Are you expecting similar personnel to return this season?
All the guys that were in the Premier team last season are playing again. We’ve also probably strengthened ourselves a little bit with a few inclusions to the club, so they’ll be pushing for selection as well. It’ll make for a pretty competitive team I think.

4. Besides yourselves, who do you see as the team to beat?
I think BMS will definitely be up there again. I’ve heard Sebas have probably got a couple of players come back again. I think probably those two are the main ones, but you sort of don’t know what players have gone to different teams or what they’ve picked up.

5. Who do you see as the big improvers?
I’d probably say Linton, they came home with a rush last season … I could possibly see them making finals if they have a better start. They’ve been up in the Premier for a couple of seasons now and got a pretty steady team, so I reckon they might be a big improver.

6. Two impressive displays in the finals last season, how are the confidence levels in going back-to-back?
We’re reasonably confident. It’s good that we’ve got the same blokes back again, everyone’s keen. It’s obviously one of the hardest things to do is to go back-to-back, so we’re under no illusion that it’s going to be difficult. You’d say we went from being the hunter last season having lost the grand final the previous season, now we’ll be the hunted. We’re reasonably confident in the team we’ve got, we’ll just wait and see how the season pans out.

7. It was a tight top five last season, are you expecting much of the same?
I think so. With it being a shortened season again, it can depend on the draw and who you play twice and that sort of stuff. I think it’ll be reasonably tight, I think it’s going to be a 14-week season so there’s no room to go on a dry run for a while, so I expect it to be (a) pretty tight top six or so again.

Victoria’s 2020-21 Saturday Pennant Premier season
Ladder position: Second

Record:+145 shots, 158 points

Semi final: defeated Sebastopol 60-45

Grand final: defeated Ballarat 60-54

Ollie Nash – The Courier

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