Bowls champ’s incredible career borne of boredom
It has been 18 years since a bored 12-year-old Kelsey Cottrell stopped hitting tennis balls up against a wall at Tewantin Noosa Bowls Club while her mum competed on the green and decided to roll a few down herself.
Just two-years later Cottrell showed nerves of steel at a New Year’s singles tournament at Maroochy Bowls Club to down top Aussie bowls player Karen Murphy in a nailbiting final.
At just 15 and while still attending high school on the Coast, Cottrell became the youngest player selected to play senior bowls for Australia.
Now the newly anointed Bowls Australia International Female Bowler of the Year has reflected on how she started chasing the jack with amazing talent.
Now based on the Gold Coast, the qualified journalist has being enjoying a COVID-19 break from the game that has fired up her always competitive nature.
She is 38 weeks pregnant with her second child.
But her absence from the game, and the Sunshine Coast has not meant locals could escape getting rolled by her uncanny bias for making the winning shot.
“My brother’s actually just joined the Pomona Bowls Club, he’s right into bowls,” Cottrell said.
She said Wade, eight years her senior, took up the game to encourage their mother Marilyn Clayton back into the game after a bout of illness.
“He’s far beyond the natural talent I ever had, he’s always been the gifted sportsman,” Cottrell said.
“He’s only been playing for about 12 months and he’s loving it, he wants to go to all the tournaments.
“It’s funny watching him now, because I think that’s what I was like back in the day when I was 12 and 13.”
Cottrell said she looked back at her early career and realised how more free and easy her approach to high pressure matches was, including her breakthrough win against Murphy.
“You don’t think about prize money or anything, you’re just playing because you want to have fun,” she said.
“It was a good thing to do during school holidays to kill a few days.
“I think it was easier back then, as a 15 year old you just go with the flow, you get a phone call and they say you’re going to play for Australia and you say ‘that’s awesome, I get a few days off school’,” Cottrell said.
Cottrell enjoyed yet another stunning year for the green and gold across four international events, with contributions to the Jackaroos’ overall success at the Multi-Nations and World Bowls Challenge, in addition to two Trans Tasman Test Series, where she resumed the coveted blue-ribbon singles position.
Bowls Australia congratulated Cottrell for her first recognition in either of the national or international Female Bowler of the Year awards which was determined through voting by her peers and the high performance coaching staff.
Cottrell said it was an award she had been keen to take out for years since being pipped at the post as a youngster.
“When I got the phone call I was very excited, it was good to reflect on all those events we had before COVID leading up to selection for worlds,” she said.
She celebrated a subdued 30th birthday with just 10 at her party, where she announced her three-year-old daughter Sienna would have a sibling in the near future.
“I’ve had a nice little break from bowls which I haven’t had since I was about 12, I haven’t barely picked up a bowl for the last few months,” Cottrell said.
“The world championships were postponed for COVID, they’re now set down for September, 2021, and I’m keen to build towards it.”