Lawn bowls world champion Rebecca van Asch returns to her old school

Back to school: Commonwealth Games representative Rebecca Van Asch visits her old school St Finn Barr's Catholic Primary, in Launceston. Picture: Neil Richardson.
Back to school: Commonwealth Games representative Rebecca Van Asch visits her old school St Finn Barr's Catholic Primary, in Launceston. Picture: Neil Richardson.

Lawn bowls dominated the curriculum when Rebecca van Asch went back to her old school.

The first Tasmanian to win a world championship in the sport seized the opportunity to return to St Finn Barr’s Catholic Primary and attempt to convert more youngsters ahead of her maiden Commonwealth Games in April.

“They were a fantastic bunch to talk to and so enthusiastic so it was great to share my journey with them,” Van Asch said.

“It would be nice to think some of them might be future bowlers.”

And the triple world champion, whose day job is chief executive of Bowls Tasmania, wasn’t afraid to confront some of her sport’s stereotypes.

“When you think of bowls, who thinks of old people?” Van Asch asked her young audience, adding: “And you can tell the truth.”

Green and gold: 2016 bowls triples world champions Rebecca Van Asch, Natasha Scott and Carla Krizanic. Picture: Bowls Australia.

Green and gold: 2016 bowls triples world champions Rebecca Van Asch, Natasha Scott and Carla Krizanic. Picture: Bowls Australia.

When only a smattering of hands went up she added: “I did when I was at school.”

Van Asch explained how she began playing with her nan, Gwen Lodge, when she was in Grade 4 at St Finn Barr’s.

A year later she was converted by the Commonwealth Games in Kuala Lumpur.

“I saw lawn bowls at the Games and thought ‘how cool is this?’

“There was a lady in her 20s playing for Australia (Karen Murphy) and I thought ‘I want to do that one day’. It’s taken 20 years but I got there and she is still there, she is one of my teammates and one of my best friends.” 

Van Asch, who was born in Wales and will turn 30 before the Games begin, won a pairs world title with Kelsey Cottrell in 2012 and added both triples (with Carla Krizanic and Natasha Scott) and fours (with Cottrell as well) in 2016.

She explained that the Australian teams will remain the same from the 2016 world titles in New Zealand, meaning she will skip the triples and play third in the fours.

Rebecca Van Asch with St Finn Barr's Catholic Primary School house captains.

Rebecca Van Asch with St Finn Barr's Catholic Primary School house captains.

“I’d love to win two medals. I’d love them to be gold but any two would be cool.

“The Australian women’s team is No.1 in the world but there are some really good teams out there. We played Malaysia last week on the Gold Coast and they were really good and will be hard to beat while England, Scotland, Wales and New Zealand we’ll have to play well against to win medals.”

The joint 2017 Tasmanian athlete of the year told pupils she was driven by her failure to make the Australian team for the Commonwealth Games in 2014.

“Four years ago I tried to make the Commonwealth Games team in Glasgow. Unfortunately, I missed out, I was not good enough and that really sucked. I was upset, I cried a lot, I did not want to play bowls much. But I got over it, I worked harder and now I get to go to these Games.”

Van Asch talked about training, clothing, diet and superstitions and answered some probing questions about mental toughness, motivation and the national selection process.

When asked what could be done to increase interest in bowls among younger people, she replied: “I ask myself that question every day at work.”