Much is written about the Allan Matheson Shield skippers with the best win-loss records of the season.
East Shepparton coach Josh Thornton is the only unbeaten skipper after 11 rounds.
Shepparton Park coach Mark Ryan, who lost just once in claiming last season’s leading skip honour, is 8-3 this season.
Ryan is equal second on the skips ladder with Shepparton Golf quiet achiever Brett Gunning, who has lost just once in nine appearances.
Then there is Kyabram star David Cartwright, who is 7-1 after selectors remarkably did not have him skipping in the first three rounds.
But what about the skips with losing records this season?
Below are four skippers who can improve their club’s finals or premiership hopes if they start winning more in the last seven regular-season rounds.
1. Rob George (Kyabram, 1-4 skipping record)
George lost his skipping job after three straight losses to start the season.
His form coincided with Kyabram’s disastrous start, with the premiership fancy having just eight points (four rink wins) in a winless first three rounds.
George played third to club legend Greg Shilling for six games before returning as skip against East in round 10, where he lost to Josh Thornton 31-25.
The new year finally brought George his first skipping success of the season, belting Shepparton RSL’s Boydie Jones 34-16 a week ago.
Kyabram sits fifth — nine points behind Nagambie in fourth — ahead of season-defining games against East (today), Park (round 13), Nagambie (round 15) and Golf (round 16).
George will be keen to build on his first win of the season and help lift his club into the top four.
2. Kris Ferguson (Shepparton Park, 3-7)
Ferguson’s three wins have come on carpet — at home against Stanhope twice and away at RSL — which is worrying when finals will be played on grass.
His overall shot difference is incredibly only -14, with his heaviest loss 15 shots against Hill Top’s Jeff McNaughton in round five. Four of his defeats were by five shots or less.
Consistency across 25 ends has been a constant issue in Ferguson’s rink this season, either conceding big starts or leaking shots near the end of games.
Park selectors have stuck with Ferguson when his third Ross Higgins, who lost skipping in Ferguson’s absence against East in round seven, or Glenn Thatcher could have replaced him.
Ferguson must repay the faith if Park is to be a genuine flag contender.
3. Geoff Franze (East Shepparton, 4-7)
Franze’s run to the Victorian Open singles last 16 has not quite transferred to Saturday pennant.
The veteran’s 4-7 record could be better as he has had two one-shot losses and a three-shot defeat.
Then again, his record could be worse as he has also had two one-shot wins.
Perhaps that indicates the luck often associated with bowls.
Interestingly, just one of Franze’s wins was at home — a one-shot win over Shilling in round 10.
Franze has won two of his past three and he will be hoping his rink finally has the right combination to improve leading into finals.
4. Josh Rudd (East Shepparton, 4-7)
The Wodonga recruit has failed to live up to the hype and his frustration has been evident.
Rudd won three of his first five contests, but has won just once since (against Nagambie’s Greg Brack in round eight).
Young Mackenzie Trewren played as Rudd’s third for the first seven rounds in a clear move to enhance his development.
However, Trewren has dropped back to leading for Rudd the past two games in favour of more experienced thirds.
Victorian representative Rudd is yet to claim a major scalp in his debut GV season — losing against Shilling (seven shots), Brad Orr (two), Ryan (seven) and Cartwright (five).
For East to be in the hunt for a finals double chance with half its skippers having losing records is testament to the outstanding seasons Josh Thornton and his brother Jordan (7-4) have had.
East will be the main premiership threat to Golf if Franze and Rudd start firing more often.
Ashleigh Williamson is a News sub-editor and Shepparton Park bowler.