Deer Park could be on the verge of becoming Bowls Victoria’s next powerhouse club.
The Parkers will take their place in the top-flight premier division for the first time in club history, as they continue to add to their state-of-the-art training and playing facility.
And the club will, for the first time this season, host the competition’s showpiece event, the premier division grand final.
Parkers president Neil Cromie is thrilled to see his club’s long-term vision to play among the top 10 sides in the state realised.
“It’s our first time ever in premier league, so it’s very exciting year for us,” he said.
“We had a five-year plan to get there and that’s how long it’s taken us to get there.
“We’ve just built slowly and made sure everything was right off the greens as well as on them.
“It’s all come to fruition and now we’ve got to make sure we make the most of being there.”
Deer Park will need to adjust to life in the premier division quickly.
The Parkers will get no respite from quality opposition from the moment they open their season on home soil against battle-hardened premier side Bundoora RSL on Saturday.
“They made finals last year,” Cromie said. “When you get to the top 10 clubs in Melbourne, it becomes pretty cut-throat at times, so you’ve got to do what you can to stay there and build.
“You’ve also got to make sure it’s not your sole focus because we’ve got six sides that will play on a Saturday and only one of them is premier league … we’ve got to look after them as well.”
If Deer Park is at a disadvantage, it is in the fact that it does not have division 1 or 2 sides.
The Parkers have added a handful of premier quality players, but were limited because some players were not willing to drop down to a third-tier team if they missed out on top side selection.
If survival in the premier division is the priority, promotion for the club’s division 3 team runs a close second in order to bridge the gap.
“That’s the gap that really hurts us,” Cromie said.
“We go from premier division down to division 3, which makes it hard to recruit players – because if they’re not playing in the top side, they’re going down a lot lower than they’re used to.
“The top sides that survive year in year out in premier league have strong division 1 and division 2 sides.
“They’ve always got that strength just below the top level – if they need to, they’ve got players to come up and fill the gaps.”
While Deer Park has more competition for spots thanks to its acquisitions, it also wanted to reward the players that got it into the premier division.
“You can go out and recruit a whole side, but that’s not fair on the rest of the club,” Cromie said.
“We still want to give the opportunities to those who are there. But it’s a bit like going from VFL to AFL – some of them are up to it, others the step is just too great. So you’ve got to bring in players that are used to playing at that level and that’s what we’ve done.”
Deer Park has opted not to have a coach for its premier division team, empowering its skips to take charge.
Last year’s coach, Gavin Niclasen, will step back into a playing role this season, while Paul Dorgan will be the chairman of selectors.