held at: Prospect 30 June, 2019
From one extreme to the other… This season’s State Triples Championship was postponed in February due to extreme heat. Second time around it was nearly a washout. Fortunately, the torrential downpour that fell on Saturday made way for a fine day on Sunday. It was a bit chilly and the pistes were still damp, but at least they weren’t flooded and it wasn’t raining.
The atmosphere at this competition was a little different to previous years. This was not just because of the very pleasing record turnout of twenty teams. It was also because many of the players (about half of them) were participating in the event for their first time. However, the standard of competition has remained high in this renaissance period for South Australian pétanque.
Many of the newer teams gave a very good account of themselves, making up about half of the teams that progressed beyond the preliminaries and claiming some big scalps along the way. On the other hand, those who missed the cut included a few of the more seasoned teams who initially might have been seen as some of the strongest contenders for the title.
In the end, though, it was experience that won out. In fact, the grand finalists may have felt a sense of deja vu, as five of the six players involved had also played in the final of the 2017/18 championship. On one side were the formidable defending champions, Selina Dally, Craig Stewart and Alexi Alexi, from the Eastern Suburbs club. Their opponents once again were an Adelaide Hills combo, comprising Brian Tuckfield & Anthony Pietsch, out for revenge, teamed up this time with Ralph Foster.
A very experienced player, Ralph has had an extended hiatus from competitive pétanque but was recently persuaded to return to the fold and thus reconstitute a team that has had some success in the past. It may have been some time between drinks, but the combination of Foster, Tuckfield & Pietsch already had a State Triples title to their name. Interestingly, their victory in 2009/10 came after having been runners-up the year before.
This year’s final was hotly contested and the quality of the game did not disappoint the small crowd of spectators who stayed to watch — not as much shooting as we sometimes see, but plenty of the more subtle arts of the game were on display. It started as an arm wrestle until, at 6-7 down, the ESP team made their move and forged ahead. They had their chances and, at 12-7, some may have thought the whole thing was done and dusted. However, little did they know that the Hills team were working to a cunning plan. In a masterful execution of the old ‘lull them into a false sense of security then jump them at the end’ strategy, timed to perfection, the latter prevailed to take out the honours.
On a historical note, Ralph, Brian & Anthony become the first trio to win two State Triples Championships in SA. A number of players have won multiple titles (including Alexi and Craig), but it has always been as part of different combinations.
Thanks to Peter Beaumont, the umpire, and to the Prospect club for hosting the event, keeping everything running smoothly and putting on a first-rate lunch.