Benalla Bowls Club’s star playing coach has only been at the club since Christmas but is already making his mark on the Ovens and Murray region.
Former Shepparton Golf product Matt Robertson has joined Benalla as a player and coach, with the hopes of bringing the club back-to-back A-grade titles in the weekend pennant.
Last season’s title was Benalla’s first since 1999, and the team was led by Commonwealth Games gold medallist Mark Jacobsen.
The division has been dominated by Wodonga and Corowa Services in recent years. The two clubs had won every year since 1999 — until last season.
Robertson hopes he can emulate the success that Jacobsen achieved with the club, as well as furthering his own game.
Robertson won the club’s champion of champions tournament, meaning he qualified for the Ovens and Murray tournament. That saw the champion of each club in the region compete, which Robertson also won.
He is now in the state championship round of 16, a title he is yet to win in his 30 years of bowling.
‘‘I’m through to the last 16 in Victoria. The competition is actually a world title, it goes from club level to Victoria, to national and then international until there’s only one left.
‘‘I’ve managed to be runner-up in the state before to the eventual winner of the national title. It went down to the last bowl, where all I needed to do was knock the jack into the pit anywhere and I would’ve won the game — but I only moved it about an inch, and he won. It’s a matter of millimetres this game,’’ he said.
Robertson said he had ‘‘probably won in excess of’’ 25 titles across his career, but had never won an individual state title.
‘‘That is one that is definitely an ambition I have, to have a state title in the cabinet. I’ve won a Queensland Open pairs, won the Victoria Open and runner-up in about three state finals, but it’s one thing I’m missing,’’ he said.
Meanwhile, Robertson is also focused on his coaching task at hand, after being in charge for four seasons at Shepparton Golf.
‘‘I want to be seen to come over here and coach, and still win titles. If I come over here and don’t win anything it’s like a failure to me if that happens,’’ he said.
Robertson has pedigree — he coached the Shepparton team to three division one titles in four seasons, with the fourth ending in a grand final loss.
Since his arrival post-Christmas, Benalla has won all four of its matches and is now in a position to qualify for the knockouts.
‘‘From (four) weeks ago when people were saying Benalla could be relegated, to now have a chance to make finals, that is our goal: To go from the relegation zone to making finals,’’ he said.
●Stability key to success, page 28