Deer Park has climbed up to the Bowls Victoria premier division for the first time in club history.
The Parkers have taken on an elite mindset in recent years as they took serious aim at Victoria’s bowls summit.
They came so close to achieving that goal in the past four seasons, only to bow out at the pointy end of the season.
Persistence has paid off for the Gavin Niclasen-coached team this season as it finally realised its dream of becoming a top-flight club.
“It’s taken us 60 years to get into premier league,” Parkers skip Ray Franksen said.
“We’d only really started getting fair dinkum 10 years ago and we’ve gone from division 4 to the premier league. It’s an unbelievable effort when you think about it.”
Deer Park sealed promotion with a 91-71 win over Cheltenham in the divisional semi-finals before losing the overall division 1 final to Lilydale 83-66.
The “promotion game” was a much more comfortable contest than the section finals. Deer Park had to survive an arm wrestle with Moonee Ponds in the section semi-final, winning by three shots.
The Parkers then came face to face with the much-feared Fitzroy Victoria in the section final and again emerged with a three-shot win.
“We love the tight games,” Franksen said. “I knew we were coming good at the right time of the year.”
Deer Park celebrated its promotion long and hard into the night.
Franksen compared the celebrations to being “like a footy grand final celebration”.
“We certainly had a big party,” he said. “To finally get into premier league – it was something you dream of.”
Deer Park has made a number of quality acquisitions in recent seasons to be competitive with the top division 1 sides.
The Parkers’ strengths have been player retention and the pressure for spots that has come from the second side.
“Every year we’ve brought in a couple of extra players and they’ve fitted in,” Franksen said.
To be competitive in the premier division, Deer Park will again have to make some shrewd acquisitions.
The Parkers are unlikely to go down the route of some big-spending clubs by bringing in interstate recruits, but they will need to strengthen to avoid an immediate return to the second tier.
Franksen is confident his club will retain the bulk of this year’s list, despite the potential for some players to be squeezed out of the top side.
“We’ll be right, we won’t lose anyone – no one leaves Deer Park,” Franksen said.
“We would never have got to premier league without that loyalty.
“It hasn’t just been by the 20 people that have played in division 1 this year – it’s been a whole club effort.”