The future looks bright, with two young guns rising above challengers to claim the 2021 Australian Masters titles earlier this week at the Australian National Championship (ANC) in Hobart.
Victorian-based Rebekah Commane and Queenslander Cameron Stein are the 2021 Australian Masters champions. The 58th running of the prestigious event saw two champions crowned who both were under 22 years old.
The remarkable result further proving bowling is a sport for all, with no age, size, speed or strength limitations.
It hasn’t taken long for Rebekah Commane to continue winning national events after recently transitioning to the adult division.
Boasting one of the more decorated Junior and Youth careers ever, Rebekah is now an Australian Masters Champion in the Adult division. It’s important to say the adult division because Rebekah is no rookie when it comes to being a masters champion.
In 2016 and 2017, Rebekah won back-to-back Australian Junior Master titles whilst also claiming the National Youth Cup titles in the same year. Her ever-evolving impressive resume now includes Australian Master Champion – the 57th female champion, at only 22 years old.
“I am so happy and still in disbelief! I am just so proud of myself for staying patient all week. It really paid off!” explained Rebekah of her joy in the victory. “This is definitely my biggest win inside of Australia. It is an honour to be named as a winner beside some legends of the sport”.
Junior Masters Champion 2016-2017
National Youth Cup – 2016 & 2017
2021 Australian Master Champion
After an extended stint overseas studying and bowling for the Savannah College of Art and Design, Rebekah is back in Australia full-time after graduating from university two months ago. Born and raised in Tasmania till the age of 13 before moving to Victoria, the Wyncity Bowl, Point Cook bowler was looking forward to the experience of ANC in front of family and friends.
“It has been so much fun!! I loved bowling in front of all my close family and cousins. They haven’t seen me bowl in real life since I was 14, so it was extremely special for them to see how I have grown as a bowler, and I know they are proud of me. Also, they were so loud for me in the finals, which helped me stay pumped up!” said Rebekah.
After a successful Rachuig debut earlier in the week for Victoria, Rebekah started the semi-finals a bit tired from the gruelling schedule that Rachuig provides.
“In qualifying, I had a good look, but I had a few issues with getting good pin carry. The round of 20 was also tough for me because I was still fatigued from bowling Rachuig for the three days prior, and switching back to an individual mindset is a struggle for me sometimes. Still, I threw a 280 game later in the block, which helped me gain my confidence back,” said Rebekah.
The final day of the masters arrived with the tri-match play on the agenda, and after some initial struggles in the previous stages, things began to turn.
“The final day of masters everything was happening for me, I averaged 228 for seven games, and I knew I could give it a good run in the stepladder after qualifying third”.
Rebekah would be one of five bowlers entering the stepladder final, receiving bonus points on all her matchplay battles. All five of the girls in the stepladder were from the Victorian Rachuig women’s team. A team Rebekah has developed a natural bond with over the week at ANC.
“We all got along really well! We spent a lot of time off the lanes in the lead up communicating with one another, which created the chemistry that 100% came onto the lanes with us. We just had so much fun and supported one another during the individual portions also, which is so important in a team culture”.
One of those five bowlers and the second-ranked player on the stepladder was Rebekah’s older sister Kaitlyn. After recently being appointed to the NTS squad after an impressive comeback year on the lanes, Kaitlyn has finished 3rd in the VIC150 and 2nd in the QLD Ladies Classic in 2021.
“I said to my sister before the semi-final match that we are competitors, not sisters. I think it was important for us both to shake the sister thing out of our heads and focus on the task at hand, we both had the same goal, and that was to win”.
In a tight tussle, Rebekah defeated her sister Kaitlyn 237-212 to advance to the title match.
“I knew regardless of who won that game, that we were going to support the other one until the end. There was no tension between us, and I am very proud of Kaitlyn’s performance. I think my sister was my loudest supporter in the final match, which shows how close we are as siblings. I truly felt how proud of me she was, and I am grateful for that”.
The title match had arrived, and the opponent was none other than 2019 World Cup winner Rebecca Whiting.
“In the stepladder, everything worked for me. After leaving 10 pins all week, they decided to fall in my favour, only leaving 2 in 3 games. I had such a great look, and I ran with it. The lanes changed quickly, but I kept it simple and rode the momentum I had”.
Rebekah Commane would defeat Rebecca Whiting 247-183 to claim her first Australian Masters and adult national title.
“Bec Whiting is an incredible bowler. I knew beating her was going to be a tough one. We have been calling her the ‘GOAT’ (Greatest Of All Time) all week, and after our match, she told me my new nickname is the ‘GOAT Slayer’. I have a lot of respect for Bec, and it was fun to bowl against her”.
Like all the individual cup events at the ANC, both male and female champions walk away with impressive and equal prize money.
“I am so grateful for Strike 3 and TBA for running such an incredible event. I loved how inclusive the Nationals were this year. The fact that I get to go home with $3,500 is something we do not see a lot in the women’s division,” said Commane.
Back to back Australian Junior Master titles, back to back National Youth Cup titles, and now an Australian Master title. So when asked if she will be back next year?
“Yes, yes and yes!!!!!”.
Top 3 Female- L-R – Kaitlyn Commane, Rebekah Commane and Bec Whiting
Australian Masters Top 15 Female Division
At only 19 years old, it sounds strange to say, but it’s been a long journey for the Toowoomba Sunset bowler Cameron Stein.
Bowling since the age of 3 years old, Cameron has progressed through the TBA pathway from an early age. Idolising Jason Belmonte, Cameron is a two-handed bowler from Toowoomba, Queensland. Cameron started bowling because his parents bowled, and he loved playing. Coached by Andy Grandison, who also coached his mum Liza as a junior, Cameron has deep family ties within the sport.
A past junior and current Youth NTS member, Cameron has represented Australia at Asian School competitions and was one of two Australians who competed in the inaugural 2019 World Junior Championships in Paris.
Winning a TBA Classic Junior Cup in 2018, and now in his first year out of junior competitions, Cameron has claimed an Australian Master title in the adult division. All at the incredible age of 19 years old.
2018 Classic Cup Champions – Sophie Martin & Cameron Stein
When it comes to Australian Masters champions, you have to go back a decade to find an Australian Master Champion who was 19 years old. That champion, none other than current Australian superstar and PBA bowler Sam Cooley. Winning in 2010 at AMF Rooty Hill, Sam was only 19 years old when he won his first of two Australian Masters titles.
Thanks to a Tenpinresults Facebook post, it was confirmed that Cameron was ten days younger than Sam when winning his. We also now know the youngest (we know of at the moment) is Steve Mackie, who was 18.5 years old when winning the 1967 title at Golden Bowl, Camberwell.
Technicalities aside, Cameron is a young, passionate, humble and deserving champion of the prestigious event and will now forever be known as an Australian Masters champion.
“It feels amazing. I can’t really put it into words how it feels. I’m just so happy that I was able to pull off the win after a really good matchplay stage,” explained Cameron.
Qualifying 10th for the event, Cameron finished in 11th place in the Semi-finals to qualify for the top 15 who would progress to the tri-matchplay stage.
“During qualifying, I was very confident with my ball reaction. I had a great look with both my Hy-Road Max and Pitch Blue. However, during the Semi’s I didn’t bowl as good as I hoped, I missed a few easy spares in key frames, which cost me pins, but I knew if I make the matchplay, pinfall dropped, so when I made it in 11th, I tried my best just to put that stage behind me” explained Cameron.
Cameron did indeed put the stage behind himself, and he didn’t look back at any stage throughout an outstanding display of bowling in the matchplay section.
“During matchplay, I knew the scoring pace was going to be high, it had been high the whole tournament. So I tried not to focus on the scores and instead tried to bowl the best I could and hope it was enough to find a way into the top 5”.
It didn’t take long to witness the high scoring within the division, with Tasmanian Fletcher Parsons bowling a 300 in the first game of matchplay. The seventh 300 game of ANC2021.
Cameron Stein, in the first six games of seven for match play averaged an incredible 249. Capturing five wins from his seven matchups, Cameron would finish with an average of 240.9 and enter the stepladder as the number one ranked bowler. He was only one win away from the title.
On the one hand, only being one win away from the title is a good thing being the number one seed. Obviously. On the other hand, the number one seed must sit and wait for three games to complete to find their opponent. For some, it can be a nervous wait.
“I was nervous knowing I would be bowling for the title, but I was also excited. Knowing that it was only the one game for the win, I just told myself to make these the best 12 shots I could make”.
His opponent in the title match would be Victorian Adam Hayes. The Australian representative and NTS member would win two games in the stepladder to make the title match after defeating Jesse Ellis and Andrew Phillips in the process. Cameron knew this wouldn’t be easy.
“I knew Adam is an amazing bowler. He is one of the best. He’s represented Australia multiple times, bowled on TV in Rollin Thunder, placed high and won events before. In the previous two matches, he bowled a 270 against Jesse and a 240 against Andrew, so I knew that this game was going to be very hard to win”.
First frame jitters saw Cameron make a mistake by missing a single pin. Thankfully things would remain even between the two bowlers after frame one, with Adam making a mistake by not converting his 7 count.
“He strung together some strikes in the following frames which I didn’t quite match. Then he left another 7, which gave me a chance to make up some ground. In the 9th frame, he left the big four, which was unlucky for him but meant I was able to win the match and the title”.
Cameron Stein would defeat Adam Hayes 237 to 197 to capture the Australian Master’s title.
Top 3 Male Australian Masters – L-R – Andrew Phillips, Cameron Stein and Adam Hayes
Australian Masters Top 15 Male Division
Arriving at the ANC for the Youth events initially, the experience of the ANC and Tassie has been one that Cameron won’t forget anytime soon.
“The ANC has been very enjoyable, even though covid prevented most of the youth teams to come over, bowling against New Zealand was so much fun, and I would rather that than no nationals at all. I was asked to be the under 25 bowler for the Western Australia Invitational team a few days before leaving. I wasn’t sure if I would bowl or not but decided to bowl in their Rachuig team, which was good fun and bowled in the masters, which paid off,” said Cameron with a laugh.
Cameron and Rebekah would receive the $3,500 prize money for their master’s title in 2021. A well-deserved reward for a long journey of sacrifices and training that he maintains to this day. Cameron is a very passionate bowler. His enthusiasm for the sport originating from his parents, who have a longtime involvement in the sport.
“Mum and Dad were the reason I got into bowling in the first place. They’ve both been supporting me in bowling since I started bowling back in my first league, all the way to my first QLD team and then first AUS team. So, I would like to say that I have made both Mum and Dad proud” explained Cameron.
Cameron leaves Tassie with an unexpected return for his efforts. The ANC experience is one he is grateful to have had the opportunity to compete in.
“I think that going ahead with the nationals was a good idea. Even though some teams couldn’t come and bowl due to lockdowns and restrictions, I thought it was better to bowl than not to bowl at all. I appreciate all the work that went in behind the scenes that Morty, Strike 3, TBA and everyone else who helped organise and run the nationals”.