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Locker room: Canberra sport - from grassroots to gossip

Crackerjack pair teams up

They’re the two Canberra lawn bowlers who have defied the odds and used the sport to regain their lives after serious illnesses.

John Mason (left) and Kevin Yovantich (right) will team up for the ACT at the National Multi-Disability Lawn Bowls Championships in Melbourne in March.

In 2002, Mason spent 18 months in hospital, eight of that in intensive care, when he contracted Guillain-Bare syndrome, a rare condition suffered by just one in 100,000 people that affects the peripheral nervous system.

Mason took up bowls as part of his rehabilitation and has been playing for the past seven years, using a walker to support himself when he bowls.

“Bowls has improved everything, my muscle strength and my hand strength,” he said.

“I have full or partial paralysis of every muscle in my body, not one muscle works properly.


“Nothing works below the knee, it’s everything.”

Yovanitch, 59, is in a wheelchair after he lost his right leg and the toes on his left foot to diabetes. He has been playing bowls for the past 18 months and competed at last year’s national titles in Brisbane. Yovanitch has had to make some adjustments to his wheelchair so not to earn the ire of greenkeepers.

“You’ve got to have pneumatic tyres and of a certain size so you’re not leaving burrows in the green,” he said.

“You have to look after it like it was a billiard table.

“I just sort of lean over to one side of the chair, hang on with the other arm for grim death and let it rip.”

Before they team up, the pair will go head to head on Sunday at a round of the Canberra pennants competition.

Yovanitch will represent Tuggeranong while Mason will line up for Weston Creek.

They are also holding a fundraiser for the national titles at Tuggeranong on February 28.

It’s Millar time

Canberra golfer Matt Millar was “oozing rust” last week as he made a tournament comeback at the Victorian Open, but he hopes to hit peak form when he hosts a Pro-Am at Gold Creek on Wednesday. Millar put his professional career on hold at the end of last year to remain in Canberra closer to his family and he started working as the Gold Creek professional. He will line up in a strong field for the Gold Creek Open, with Pat’s Plumbing chipping in to get the prizemoney to $10,000. Andre Stolz will headline the field, but the New Zealand Open has lured some of the top players away. The Vic Open Pro-Am recruited Australian cricket great Ricky Ponting last week and he shot a remarkable three under. At Gold Creek, Brumbies Matt Toomua and Nic White have plenty of work to do to emulate Ponting. For more details, contact the Gold Creek Golf Club.

Blind cricket challenge

Sighted cricketers will found out how tough it is not to see when they take on their blind counterparts at their own games. A Lord Taverners invitational XI, including players from the ANU club, will take on an ACT blind cricket team featuring four Australian representatives, including Cameron Roles, in a unique match at Kippax Oval on Sunday. Some of the sighted players will wear blind folds for complete vision loss, while others will wear special glasses to create vision impairments. The game will be a 25 over a side affair. Play starts at 10.30am.

Brumby proves all White at AFL

Forget perennial codehopper Israel Folau and his rival for the Wallabies fullback jersey, Jesse Mogg, maybe the AFL should have a look at ACT Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White. Folau spent one season in the AFL on a multi-million-dollar contract before the former Kangaroo defected to the NSW Waratahs. Then over the Christmas period, Mogg trained with the Brisbane Lions up in his home state, sparking rumours he’d take his booming left boot to the rival code. White this week threw his hat into the ring. The Brumbies were training out on the AIS multipurpose fields, which has both rugby and Aussie rules goal posts, and the excitable young White swooped on a loose rugby ball, charged towards the AFL goals and unleashed a shot from about 50 metres out that went sailing through the high diddle diddle. “Sign him up for GWS,” White shouted. “$1.5 million.”

Raiders drink milk and drive

They’re both making a good living as NRL players, but Canberra Raiders stars Brett White and Paul Vaughan could join the circus in retirement after squeezing their huge frames into a pint-sized Canberra Milk smart car this week. Promoting the return of Canberra Lime this season, the burly props had plenty of green milk but were definitely starved of leg room at the promotion. It reminded us of the Simpsons episode where town bully Nelson laughs at a very tall man driving around Springfield jammed in a tiny car.

Sevens snub Brumbies

The ACT Brumbies won’t get a chance to defend their world club sevens title, with organisers opting to invite the NSW Waratahs to the tournament in England this year. But Locker Room can reveal the Brumbies are close to finalising details to be involved in a richer tournament, a 10s event in Singapore with some of the best clubs in the world. The Brumbies shocked most when they won the inaugural world club sevens title at Twickenham in August last year. But the star-studded Waratahs, who boast Israel Folau, Kurtley Beale and Adam Ashley-Cooper, will play at the event this year. The Brumbies are expected to join two-time defending Super Rugby champions the Waikato Chiefs, the Cape Town Stormers and Saracens in Singapore. Details of the tournament could be released as early as this week.

The Duke returns

Former Brumbies coach Jake White started a tradition of inviting ex-players to hand out jerseys before Super Rugby games and new mentors Stephen Larkham and Laurie Fisher are continuing the trend. First up was ACT front-row great Geoff “Duke” Didier (pictured). The hard-nosed prop, who still plays when he gets an invite to games, gave a speech to the Brumbies before their last training session at Canberra Stadium on Friday. He only just made it in time after hosting a lunch with former teammate and now Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie for the Royals rugby club. The Brumbies have also invited another off-field legend back into the inner sanctum this season. Assistant manager and ACT rugby stalwart Garry “Quinzo” Quinlivan is back for home games. In between 1996 and 2012, Quinlivan missed just two Brumbies games at home or away. He was missing last year, but now he’s back. “It’s getting some history back, someone who’s been there for day dot,” said Brumbies director of rugby Laurie Fisher.

Gunners star slams it

His brother is rated one of the NBA’s best slam dunk merchants, but Canberra Gunners recruit Garlon Green showed he clearly has some handy springs of his own. Basketball ACT boss Tony Jackson sent Locker Room this dunking highlights package of the guard during his college days in Texas. Jackson joked they may need some spare rings in case the 23-year-old destroys those at Belconnen Stadium. Garlon is the younger brother of Phoenix Suns starter Gerald, an NBA dunking contest regular who took out the event in 2007.