GOLDEN TOUCH: The Bowls Sunraysia best and fairest ‘Golden Bowl’ was unveiled this week, being handed over to Bowls Sunraysia president Sue Kelly by Ron Scheele and Jim Underwood from Mildura Woodturners. Photo: PAUL MENSCH

THE most coveted trophy in Sunraysia lawn bowls – ‘The Golden Bowl’ – for the Saturday Division One Pennant best and fairest player, has been officially unveiled, and handed over to Bowls Sunraysia officials.

The unique hand-carved trophy, featuring an over-size golden lawn bowl, will be awarded to the best and fairest pennant player at a gala sportsperson’s night on Friday, December 8, 2017, a week before the pennant final.

The winner will also take the lion’s share of $1750 in prize money, put up by major sponsors the Hogan families and their Country Care Group, along with an engraved Gold medal. The runner-up silver medallist will receive $500, and the Bronze medallist $250.

Also announced this week was confirmation of the awards night guest speaker, the talented multi-gold medallist Mark ‘Dougie’ Jacobsen, labelled ‘the Shane Warne of world bowls’ because of a colourful career spanning more than three decades.

Some bowls commentators rate Jacobsen one of the standout players of all time, and it is said that his 412 representative games for Victoria will never be bettered. The Brighton, Melbourne, club manager has also played more than 100 games for Australia, and is a 10-time Gold medallist at national and international level.

Details of Jacobsen’s Mildura visit, and ‘The Golden Bowl’ award, were released on the eve of the Bowls Sunraysia Division One Saturday pennant, which gets under way tomorrow, and which will be contested by just six teams under a new 10-week format being trialled for three years.

The unique and impressive bowls trophy, a one-off project completed in around 20 hours by Ron Scheele and Jim Underwood from Mildura Woodturner’s Club, has already attracted wide interest. ‘The Golden Bowl’ is on display at Country Care Group’s Mildura headquarters.

Competition instigator, and awards night organiser, Alan Erskine, said this week he hoped the Saturday Division One Best and Fairest award would extend in coming years to the popular women’s mid-week competition, along with Divisions Two, Three and Four, and maybe even similar regional and metropolitan pennant competitions in Australia.

Because of the voting system, where players are judged by their opposition rink on a 4, 3, 2, 1 system, every player, from Lead to Skipper, will have an even chance of winning the prestigious trophy and medal, and because of this, Mr Erskine expects that Division One pennant players will be making sure they get their tickets early for the December 8 awards night.

“The big night is open to all bowlers in all divisions in Bowls Sunraysia competition, along with partners, and with limited tickets available, I anticipate the tickets will go pretty quickly,” he said.

Apart from the guest speaker, the big night will include a two-course meal, raffle prizes worth more than $2000 thanks to associate sponsor Tasco Inland, door prizes and some surprise entertainment, all for a modest $25 a head. Tickets are available at any of the district’s 11 bowls clubs.

Mr Erskine said he was particularly pleased at being able to book Jacobsen as the special guest speaker.

“David Allen, editor of the popular world online magazine ‘Inside Bowls’ rates Jacobsen as arguably the best – certainly the most colourful and entertaining – player he has ever seen,” Mr Erskine said. “He told me that Alex Marshall, the Scottish legend and undisputed Number One bowler in the world describes Jacobsen as ‘a superstar.’”

Allen said Jacobsen had won multiple medals, with at least 10 Gold, including the 1998 Commonwealth Games pairs Gold, playing with Brett Duprez from NSW.

“But it’s his entertaining approach to getting the job done on sport’s most level playing field that sets Jacobsen apart,” Allen said.

“He has a drive to match an Exocet Missile in brutality and destruction, but if the next play requires a precision draw, his gentle touch will relax even the most strained nerve.”

Allen said Jacobsen holds the record as the youngest-ever winner of the Victorian singles championship, taking the title even before he won his own club championship. He became a Big V representative player at just 19.

“But it was his cheeky antics and occasional run-ins with officialdom at all levels that led to his ‘Shane Warne of bowls’ tag, and saw his amazing career cut short,” Allen said.

“Otherwise there is no doubt he would still be skipping a rink for Victoria, eclipsing the magical 500-game mark for his State, following up with national representation, and lining up with fellow Jackaroos in the Commonwealth Games on the Gold Coast next March.

“This bloke is a bloody legend, and Mildura bowlers will be entertained by his stories.”

Allen said he would leave it up to Jacobsen to tell where the nickname ‘Dougie’ came from.