As we approach the World Masters, the final ranking event of the 2014-15 season, we take a closer look at the provisional standings to see which players are still in with a chance of qualification for the 2015 World Cup!
With the World Masters winner able to attain a maximum of 165 ranking points, the competition for spots within most of the nations represented remains wide open.
Sitting comfortably in 1st and 2nd position, either Jonathan Payne or his son Dimitri, appear certain to head the Belgian team. Youngster Sibe Laureys is the hot favourite for the third spot while Daniel Neyt and Frank Vermoesen will both need to avoid the Wooden Spoon if one of them is to accumulate enough points to surpass Louis Helsen and secure the fourth spot.
Leading the UK Open Champion Rob Martin by 43 points, Dom Reed is favourite to finish the season as England’s top ranked player. With only 14 points covering the next four players (Chris Mann, Nigel Reed, Jack Pye and John Lax), the qualification battle for the English promises to be a tense affair. Don’t rule internationals Bronagh Toleman, Lee Toleman and Mitchell Young who are capable of stringing together a series of results that could bring them into contention if some of the higher ranked players fail to deliver.
The situation for the Irish players is more straight forward than for many of the other nations. World no. 1 Mark Beattie and no. 2, Jal Richardson, are both assured of their spots in the top four. Cecil Dillon, Pauline and Joe Beattie can all deny Andrew Morrison the third spot he occupies at present. We must also add Ivan Craig, William Morrison, Lisa Douglas and PJ McCrossan into the equation – all harbour the faintest hopes of qualifying, but one of them will need to put in an outstanding performance and keep their fingers crossed that those above them falter.
Whilst current leader Stephen Gale is sure to finish as his country’s no. 1, 4th placed Michael Collister and the 3 other Manx entrants to the World Masters all have an opportunity to qualify by finishing above Bernie and Steve Durcan (currently 2nd and 3rd respectively).
With only four ranked players featuring in this season’s Order Of Merit the qualifiers for the Netherlands team have already been decided. Frans Roberts will captain the Dutch at the World Cup, barring the performance of a lifetime from either Saskia Schaft, who aims to improve on her 2nd place tally, or Jan Reinders , who will be striving to leapfrog Esther De Groot and clinch the 3rd spot.
As none of this emerging nation’s players are competing at this year’s World Masters, the Norwegian qualifiers are already finalised. Lars Rune Lauritzen will captain a side consisting of Runar Helin, Øyvind Helin and John Ingar Larsen.
With a reassuring 46 point lead, Joel Hager will be confident of holding onto his no. 1 spot. However only one point separates Jorgen Karlsson in 2nd from Dick Almen in 3rd and Tommy Dahlgren will be looking over his shoulder as he faces some stiff competition from wife Bente and compatriots Rosa Albrektsson, Lars Hansen, Jonas Hager and Christer Almen, who all remain hopeful of a World Cup berth themselves.
English Masters Champion and Welsh no. 1 Stephen Williams will be following events anxiously from home to see if his lead proves enough to stay at the top, and also if his travelling countrymen will be able to oust him from the top four altogether. Peter Rees faces a similar wait. 3rd placed Sam Harvey holds a useful 26 point lead over 4th placed Aled Humphreys, but National Champion Andrew Jones is only 7 points further back and is sure to mount a challenge. Nick Evans is a current World Champion and whilst he lies 67 points adrift of the top four, he should not be disregarded.
Last but by no means least is the Rest Of The World side. Italian Antonio Rinaldi has a commanding advantage at the top of their rankings. Scotland’s Lawrence Moffat sits 42 points ahead of the 3rd and 4thplace bowlers, Bent Nielsen of Denmark and Catherine Allison of Cyprus. German pair Erika Wachholz and Andreas Hahn can both still make the team but will probably need to qualify for the Plate Knockout competition in order to do so.
You can look at all the other permutations here and you can find out more about how players earn ranking points here. Visit worldshortmatbowls.com for all the latest news in the build up to the World Cup in August.