By Matt Stevens
March 3, 2020

Two down, two to go. The Werribee Youth Cup was held on the weekend to complete the second nationally ranked youth division event of the year.

The event would see two maiden 2020 titles be claimed by Victorian Bernie Grueso Jr and Amy Shoesmith from the Australian Capital Territory at Wyncity Bowl & Entertainment, Point Cook, Victoria.

For Bernie, being named the Werribee Cup champion is not a new achievement. In 2017, Grueso Jr would win the event at the age of 15 years old. Three years later, the talented two-hander would once again reign supreme at Wyncity. This time he would do so as a more rounded bowler.

“I feel like I have improved in every single aspect of the game since then” explained Grueso Jr.  “With a big focus on versatility, touch and lane-play”.

For the female champion, Amy Shoesmith, the bowler from the ACT would claim her first ranked event win on the weekend. A win that has been long desired.

“Honestly the feeling of winning Werribee Youth is unreal” said an excited Shoesmith. “I’m fairly certain it’s my first ranked event win and it’s a feeling like no other. I’ve won a few other tournaments that weren’t ranked but this is definitely one of my greatest achievements”.

An achievement that is well deserved. Not only from her years on the lanes but also the commitment in travel that is required to compete. Shoesmith would drive 669km from home with boyfriend Kyle Annetts to attend the weekends event. A drive that takes 6.5-7 hours. With the help from Dad’s car because “it’s better on fuel than both of ours” the pair would experience a weekend to remember at Wyncity.

Amy Shoesmith @ National Youth Challenge 2020

Qualifying involved completing ten games in two five game blocks. The top 12 boys would advance to stage two for five more games before a top 6 matchplay final. The girls would see the top six created from the ten qualifying games.

Defending champion Chloe Jones led after qualifying with a 1,941 averaging 194.1 over the 10. Sitting 48 pins behind in second place was Amy Shoesmith. The top 6 qualifiers from the female qualifying would advance to the match play stage. The other finalists would be Shannon-Rose Thomas, Grace Perry, Kylie Bailey and Emma Stephens who would round out the six.

Shoesmith would bowl a 136 game in the fourth game of qualifying. In the past this is a score that may have prompted a downward streak. Yet with a constant focus and investment into the mental game, Shoesmith would not let it affect her.

“My sport psychologist definitely deserves some credit for all the time and help he’s given to get my mental game where it is today” explained a thankful Shoesmith.   “I never really got angry about my bad games, I just picked myself up and move onto the next frame”. Hiring the services of sport psychologist Chris Mesagno has paid dividends for Shoesmith.

“My mental game is something I take quite seriously – considering we changed lanes after each game, you couldn’t really expect the lanes to play the same — and on that 136 game the line that I was playing didn’t quite work on that pair” explained Shoesmith. “I didn’t want to get down or angry about it because I knew it wasn’t something I could control, I just knew that whatever game it plays out to be, is it, and in hope I could fix it next game”.

For the boys, a rising star from Queensland continued his impressive form for 2020. Over the 10 games, Jesse Ellis would post 2,103 pinfall and average 210.3 to finish the top qualifier. The Queenslander would open with a nervy game of 137 before flicking the switch and posting seven 200+ games in the last nine games. Bernie Grueso Jr would sit close behind in second place with 2,079.  

Top Qualifiers – Jesse Ellis & Chloe Jones

Competing in an event near where one lives provided Bernie an opportunity that doesn’t happen too often. His 16-year-old brother Bernie Grueso III would compete in his first Werribee Youth and bowl with his older brother.

“It was awesome to be paired with him, especially with being able to help him make adjustments and strengthen his knowledge of the game” said Grueso Jr. “I love watching my brother as it gives me a similar feeling of being a proud father”. Bernie Grueso III would finish a respectable 16th place in qualifying.

From the ten games in qualifying, the top 12 boys would advance to stage two which would see them bowl another five to solidify the top 6.

Bernie Grueso Jr would make his move by posting +150 in stage two to sit in first place heading into matchplay. Jesse Ellis would slip to second place, whilst Nixon Chan, Tom Mitchell, William Clark and Lachlan McDougall would be the final six moving to the final phase.

“The biggest key for me this time around was adaptation” explained Grueso Jr. “ Every pair I bowled on played different throughout both days and all stages. I had to be able to create all different kinds of shapes beyond the foul line to be matched up to the ever-changing conditions. I used a variety of the Pitch Black, Pitch Purple, Omega Crux and Phaze II to help accommodate the respective looks I was searching for”.

Bernie Grueso Jr @ National Youth Challenge 2020

Matchplay would see competitors bowl against each other once with bonus pins on offer – 20 for a win, 10 for a tie, 0 for a loss. The change from qualifying to match play is noticeable for competitors.

“Match play is definitely different to qualifying” explained Shoesmith. “it’s like the next level in a video game, you concentrate a lot harder as well as being quite serious about it. Everything goes pretty quiet compared to qualifying where everyone talks and it’s a bit more relaxed” explained Shoesmith. The game plan Shoesmith adopted for match play was based on experiences in qualifying.

“The game plan I had was using the equipment I used for the second half of qualifying and mentally I was focusing on what I could control– taking it one shot at a time”.

The girls would see Queenslander Kylie Bailey win four of five to climb into third place. The first two positions would be jostled between Chloe Jones and Amy Shoesmith. A regular battle between two good friends who Shoesmith has much respect for on and off the lanes.

“She’s honestly a genuine person and her bowling just matches it” said Shoesmith. “Sometimes she gets that straight face going which sometimes scares me and makes me nervous to bowl against her. She definitely puts a lot of time into bowling, you can see she loves it and I definitely think she’s a great bowler”.

Jones had won the last three ranked events held at Wyncity Bowl & Entertainment leading up to this event – 2019 and 2020 National Youth Cups and the 2019 Werribee Youth Cup. With four games completed and one to go in the matchplay phase, Jones would again be in the lead by 40 pins. It was looking likely that Jones would claim yet another title at Wyncity.

“Throughout all 5 games I had no clue where I was at or what was happening— a few people offered to tell me but I just didn’t want to know” explained Shoesmith. In her second last game, Shoesmith would move the wrong way with her hip resulting in a great deal of pain. With one game to go and 40 pins behind Jones, Shoesmith would make an adjustment based on managing the injury.

“In the last game I was against Grace and I was so worried about my own self and my hip that I just went slower to make sure I was okay, and I guess that just helped the ball read better” explained Shoesmith. “I was doing my own thing and stressing more over my hip then bowling and I guess the slower I went the better, the pins just fell in my favour” said Shoesmith. “A friend then told me I had won, and I was in shock mixed with pain!”.

Top 3 – Chloe Jones, Amy Shoesmith and Kylie Bailey

Shoesmith finished a whirlwind 2019 boasting many highlights. After representing Australia at the inaugural World Junior Championships in Paris, then again for the Asian School Championships in Hong Kong, you would think that would be enough major events for one year. For Shoesmith, she would also compete in all three of the national championships —- Australian Junior Championships, Youth Championships and Adult Championships. The effort provided Shoesmith with a remarkable achievement. 

In all three of the championships she would represent her home state ACT. She would be named an All Star in all three events. An honour handed to the top 4 or 5 performing bowlers of the event. A feat that according to TBA records had never been accomplished before in one calendar year.

“It’s honestly unreal and the best feeling to have when you achieve something so great that you find out no one else has done it— it makes it that even more personal and special “said Shoesmith. “I also placed in the top 10 with most, if not all tournaments I bowled in last year which I’m very happy with”.

After a jam-packed year in 2019, Shoesmith has purposely pulled the breaks a little on the time spent on the lanes in 2020. As with all youth bowlers, the need to start thinking about study and work become priority. After getting selected in the youth National Training Squad (NTS) for 2020, Shoesmith would have to let coaches know that she would be sitting this year out.

“I’ve actually planned to take a step back from doing a whole heap of bowling– I still do league and training on a regular basis but I think it’s time to give myself a bit of a break before I run out of steam” said Shoesmith. “I know I have a lot of years ahead of me but with starting a new job and a course for the career I want to build; I think this break will be beneficial towards what I would like to achieve later on. My main goal is to get a solid lifestyle going then hopefully progress forward in my bowling career. I am aiming to do a few more tournaments this year, the youth eliminator and Sydney youth being two of them, but just not as many as the past few years”.

For the boys, the order of placings would not change from stage 2 to the completion of match play.

“Going into matchplay, knowing I had a decent lead, my plan was to play it safe” explained Grueso Jr. “This was my downfall however as it made me play to ‘not lose’ rather than to win, which closed the lead I had down”.

Nixon Chan would finish in third place with 4,107. Jesse Ellis would remain in second place. The finish for Ellis allowing the young Queenslander to accomplish his highest placing in a ranked event with 4,234. Ellis did all he could by winning four of the five matchplay battles.

It was not enough to topple Bernie though. Grueso Jr would also win four of five with a high game of 287 in the third to cement his first ranked event title in 2020.

Top 3 – Jesse Ellis, Bernie Grueso Jr, Nixon Chan

“It feels really rewarding to have a win under my belt this year, especially after two podiums at the Victorian State Championships this year” stated an excited Grueso Jr. “The victory feels just as good as the excitement of what’s to come!”.

Selected in the youth National Training Squad for 2020,  its obvious Bernie has further goals for 2020.

“It will also be a big year of learning, but with a main focus of preparing myself to compete at the elite level and international events” said Grueso Jr.

The win also boosts Grueso Jr to the number one position in the ranking points for 2020 in the youth division. Shoesmith sits in second place after Chloe Jones backed up her National Youth Cup title with a second place at Werribee Youth. Points as of 2nd March 2020

The 18th running of the Werribee Youth Cup is done for another year and It continues to prove one of the more enjoyable events on the youth division calendar for all bowlers.

“I enjoy bowling Werribee Youth because of its one-squad format. I feel that it helps to eliminate some squad inequities that may occur with other formats” said Grueso Jr. “It’s such a well-run tournament with great facilities. I do quite like the layout as well; the short 5 games sprints are a good test to see how many good games you can put together” explained Shoesmith.

“I also love that I’m able to sleep in my own bed whilst bowling a tournament!” said Grueso Jr. Not a privilege that Shoesmith was afforded as she began the long drive home with Kyle.

“We always enjoy going away to tournaments. Just depends on the finishes on how much enjoyment is taken” said Shoesmith.

At least the trip home this time will provide maximum enjoyment.

The next ranked event for the youth division is the Sydney Youth Cup at Tenpin City. The event will be the third of four events for the year and start on May 23rd. For more information click here

Full Results

Youth Ranking Points – Updated 2nd March 2020

2020 Werribee Youth Cup Champions – Amy Shoesmith & Bernie Grueso Jr