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Twelve months ago, the Morgan family lived in Fiji Street, Russell Island, when on June 25, the house went up in flames.

Mum Debra Morgan was able to get her children Zahah (then 11) and Zane (6) to safety.

However, everything was lost and the family literally only had the clothes they were standing in.

The Russell Island community came together and lots of emergency clothing and furniture were found for the family to get started again.

Among the many things that were given to them was, strangely, a set of odd lawn bowls.

Young Zayah, who is a student at Chisholm Catholic College, was intrigued by them and decided she might like to ‘give them a try’.

So she took them down to the Russell Island Bowls Club and ‘had a bowl’.

She was soon noticed by club coaches Peter Egan and Colin Greenwood and they saw something in the young bowler.

Who could have imagined that just 12 months later, Zayah (now 12) is the Queensland Under 15 State Lawn Bowls Champion!

It was a stunning introduction to the sport and an amazing outcome in just 12 short months.

“We are gobsmacked,” says proud mum Debra.

“Who would have thought after all we have been through, that my daughter would be a State Bowls Champion just 12 months after such a traumatic event,” she said.

Certainly, with the help of Peter and Colin, Zayah improved remarkably, by mostly competing in social bowls at the Russell Club.

Every year the club closes its greens for a couple of months and during that time, Zayah went with her grandfather Denis Morgan, to train at the Manly Club.

She had decided that she would like to participate in the State titles to be held at the Capalaba club in April.

Zayah amazingly progressed through the competition beating opponent after opponent, many of them much older than her just turned 12 years.

She, and her family and the entire island bowls community, were stunned when she ended up winning the title in a tense final against Stephanie Pratt from Townsville convincingly 21-7, after winning her semi-final earlier in a close encounter.

Certainly her win has helped transform her family.

They moved to another home on Russell Island and things are still being sorted out with re-building their home in Fiji Street.

Deb Morgan said: “We must be doing something right after all. It has been a tough year.”

So significant was the win for the family that granddad Denis was brought to tears.

“It was lovely to see,” mum Deb added.

As for her bowling, what’s next on Zayah’s calendar?

“I really enjoy the game. I am going to keep playing here on Russell Island and continue to learn the game.

“I can compete at the under 15 level for another three years!,” Zayah declared.

One of her early coaches, Colin Greenwood says Zayah is: “A great little kid.

“She was good to coach and was a quick learner. She will go a long way,” he added.

Russell Island Bowls Club president Fran Waghorn is delighted that one so young from the islands has won a prestigious State Title.

“It is the first ever State title to come to our islands,” she says proudly.

• Young Russell Island lawn bowler and State Champion Zayah Morgan with coaches Peter Egan and Colin Greenwood.

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