By CORY DALEY
A NEW look Zone 14 side featuring no less than nine debutantes finished a creditable second in the annual Pat Geary Shield lawn bowls challenge.
The memorial shield is contested between Newcastle (Zone 2), Central Coast (Zone 15) Hunter (Zone 6) and the Mid and Lower North Coast (Zone 14) and is hosted on a rotating basis throughout the four competing zones, with Avoca Beach on the Central Coast the 2005 venue.
This event is generally the last hit-out for all four teams before the state sides championship held in September, where zones compete with a 16man team as opposed to the Pat Geary Shield in which sides consist of 24 players.
The Zone 14 side were looking to defend their title won in 2004 and were quietly confident with two current NSW state reserve players in Joel Bourke and Michael Burgess featured in their line-up.
However, they lost their opening encounter narrowly to Newcastle with the victor not decided until literally the last bowl had been delivered.
The side regrouped quickly and posted a hard-fought win over host zone and shield favourites Central Coast in the afternoon on Saturday to keep their chances alive.
The result was decided once again on the last end, with Park Beach bowler Laurie
Morris stealing the match with a superb weighted bowl to score the necessary shots for victory.
The shield was well and truly up for grabs with one round to play with all four sides registering a win and a loss on the opening day.
A solid start in the morning gave the men high hopes of retaining the much coveted shield but despite always being in control against their Hunter rivals the North Coast boys could not break the opposition and could only manage a 10shot victory.
Despite this being a great win for the side it was not enough to retain the shield as Newcastle posted a huge 30-shot victory over Central Coast to take the shield, winning with a superior for and against tally.
Second place, however, was still a tremendous result considering the strength of all three opposition sides.
Selectors Denis Scott and Gary Hargreaves, who were also making their debut in their roles, had nothing but praise for their team,
recognising the difficulty of defending such a well contested shield with so many new players.
Selectors were also pleased with the comradeship which had developed among the players, many of them meeting for the first time, the highlight being the bus ride home which despite the side travelling back without the shield was enjoyed by all with the team in high spirits, all of which bodes well for future fixtures.
With the Pat Geary Shield decided, a 19-man squad has been named to contest the state championships, held in Ballina from September 9 to 11.
Westport dominated selections with five players named in the squad.
Seven Mid North Coast players have made the team.
The side is as follows: C Baldwin, G Brimms, P Taylor, M Prior (S), A McFayden, C Daley, A Carver, J Bourke (S), P Toy, D Williams, M Burgess, J ONeil (S), D Harrison, D Griffiths, L Morris, G Hunter (S).
Reserves: G Beattie, D Maloney, N Stahlut.
All players involved will be sent further information the coming days and any unavailable players need to contact Denis Scott (6653 1887) as soon as possible.