THE Commonwealth Games officially get underway tonight with the opening ceremony at the Melbourne Cricket Ground and former Shoalhaven Heads lawn bowler Karen Murphy will be right in the middle of it.
Murphy (31) will contest her third Commonwealth Games and said to be playing on home soil is a huge advantage.
"This is going to be a huge competition, probably the biggest I've ever played in, especially as it is here at home," she said.
Karen, who know lives in Wollongong and plays for St John's Park, will line up in the pairs with Lynsey Armitage.
She admits marching in tonight's opening ceremony will be a huge occasion.
"I've marched at the other Games, but being able to do it in front of a home crowd will be huge," she said.
"We've got all our gear and the opening ceremony uniforms look fantastic.
"It's going to be huge."
Karen previously played in Kuala Lumpur in the fours and Manchester in the singles, gaining a silver medal at both.
She says it would be fantastic to win gold, especially in front of a home crowd.
"To win gold would be special, especially here in front of a home crowd, but I'm not getting carried away, we still have a lot of work to do," she said.
"Mind you I would love to go one better after picking up silvers at the last two Games.
"Some times I guess you have to win silver to really appreciate the gold."
In fact she is using Manchester as motivation.
"I have a photo from Manchester on my wall in my room at the village and I look at it all the time - I don't want to feel like that again!" she said.
She admits with the Games being staged on Aussie greens they will go into competition as slight favourites.
"We have had eight months of training to get used to the greens - sure they have changed in that time, they are now mowed shorter and have quickened up considerably which is good for us, but we have got a handle on them," she said.
"But being at home there is extra pressure on us."
And the draw for the pairs has changed.
There was to be four sections, but that has been reduced to just two.
"We have a very tough pool that includes England, Scotland, South Africa and Malaysia," she said.
"I think that is a good thing, we've got to play these sides at some stage, it might as well be early and get them out of the way," she said.
"Hopefully we might even catch them a little under prepared.
"You will have to make the top four to make the quarters, I'd rather have tough games all the way through rather than having a couple of easy games and then three tough ones in the quarter, semis and final."
The lawn bowlers were one of the first Aussie teams to move into the Games village and have already had training sessions on the greens they will be playing on at the Darebin International Sports Centre.
"The village is fantastic, it's the best I've been in - better than KL and Manchester," she said.
"The rooms are great, very spacious, comfortable and homely and that helps."
Likewise the Darebin complex is also first class.
"We've seen it evolve over the past few months and I can't wait to get out there and play, it's going to be great - the atmosphere should be fantastic," she said.
"The crowds will be right behind us and they will lift us by at least 20 per cent."
How has the Australian lawn bowls team taken the withdrawal of Ian Thorpe?
"It's a blow to the Australian team as a whole," Murphy said.
"Losing an athlete or any athlete of the calibre of Ian is a blow to the whole team.
"He's our highest profile competitor, but if he's ill and can't compete there is nothing he can do about that.
"I feel for him, it must be terribly disappointing.
"As a team though it doesn't really affect us, we don't know the swimmers that well or have a lot to do with them.
"As a team we are just concentrating on our performances.
"We have worked so hard for these Games, harder than any team I've ever been on, it's really been a 12 month build up.
"We are a very close knit group - we have modelled that on what the swimmers do, we are all living in the village at one town house and we do everything as a team.
"Above all we are all good mates."
And there won't be much rest for the Aussie team members, following the Games they are virtually straight back into action with the Australian Open also being staged at the Games' venue.
Mind you Murphy says at this stage she's not even thinking about the open, her focus is on the Melbourne Commonwealth Games.
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