Now the Christmas festivities are over, Somerset’s Green Army are counting down the days to their clash with Essex in the quarter-finals of the national men’s inter-county championship at Loddon Vale on Saturday, January 12.
“It’s getting to be an annual fixture,” said team manager Don Fowkes this week. “It’s the third time we have met Essex at this stage in three years, and we are all hoping we can achieve the same result we did last year and the year before.”
Previously, the two counties have met at the West Berks club in Newbury, but this time it was Essex’s ‘shout’, and they have clearly had enough of that venue. They have plumped for Loddon Vale, which is a few miles down the road in Basingstoke.
“We have been forced into making some changes, and it’s great to have Graham Shadwell back in the ranks after his exploits in Adelaide, where he and Jamie Chestney bagged a bronze medal in the world outdoor pairs championship,” added Fowkes.
Some observers thought that Fowkes might ‘rest’ rising star Jack Groves, who came in as a late replacement against Worcestershire in the last round, but he has kept faith in the 14-year-old from Watchet, who made such a big impression.
“There was no way I was going to drop him after the way he played on his debut,” says Fowkes. “So, with Graham back, I’ve engaged in a bit of juggling, and hope I’ve come up with a winning combination – though Essex will be all out to stop the rot and gain revenge!”
Fowkes added: “We are lucky that the team spirit is so high, and that we have such strength-in-depth. I’m also grateful to key players like Steve Withers, Steve Smith and Paul Denslow, who are content to sit on the reserve bench.”
The introduction of a national under 16 singles tournament has given clubs like Yeovil, who have a thriving junior section, a big boost, and no fewer than 14 boys and girls between the ages of eight and sixteen from the club entered the competition.
In the Yeovil final, Shannon Crouch, who is only 13, defeated another 13-year-old Tommie Partridge, 7-6, 7-6, and will now go forward to open competition.
Club member Edna Bessell, recently returned from Australia, where she masterminded England’s bid for medals in the women’s world outdoor championships, was on hand to present the prizes to winner Shannon and runner up Tommie.
“It was a desperately close final of high quality,” said club coach Mo Monkton, who is also team manager of England juniors. “This brilliant new event has introduced sets play to our youngsters, and that has proved a useful step in their development.”
Yeovil’s junior section boasts 24 regular members between the ages of eight and 18, many of whom are playing in club leagues, and doing well in numerous club competitions.
“They enjoy themselves on and off the green,” said Monkton, referring to the gusto her young pupils showed at the recent Christmas Party at the club. “But we are always complimented on the way they observe the etiquette of the game.”
Most of Yeovil’s youngsters attended the School of Excellence run by the English Bowls Youth Development Scheme at Taunton Deane, when a skills competition was held to bring the numbers down to sixteen in each age group for the next meeting at Bristol on January 12.
The big financial share-out from Sport England that recently delighted some sports and left others out in the cold, brought good news for bowls, with a sum of £2m being awarded to the controversial Bowls Development Alliance.
Not everyone is happy, however: the money is ring-fenced, and has to be used to fund the new ‘Growing the Sport of Bowls’ plan from 2013 to 2017. Packages will be available in Hot Spots across the country where there is a high density of potential ‘recruits’ of a certain age.
Sport England’s Director of Sport, Lisa O’Keefe said: “Bowls is widening its appeal and image through its vision to help people live longer, healthier and more fulfilling lives. We are confident in the BDA’s plans to grow the sport and enable people to play sport for longer.”
While it is clearly a good thing to offer bowls to older people, the insistence that the money should be used solely to attract men and women who are over 55 to the sport will surely serve to perpetuate the notion that bowls is an old man’s game.
Sport England may or may not be happy with that, but, as our other stories this week prove, bowls is really a game for all ages, and forward-looking clubs like Yeovil and Bristol have developed youth sections that are doing really well.
The introduction of the generously-funded BDA, which works hand-in-hand with Bowls England and the English Indoor Bowling Association, is seen in some quarters as a threat to the status quo, and has ruffled some feathers.
Painfully aware that the English Bowls Coaches Association (EBCS) have reacted strongly against the plans of the BDA to ‘take over’ coaching in England, BDA officials are determined to pour oil on troubled waters.
This week, they called for peace talks with the EBCS, and have offered two dates – Monday or Sunday, 14 or 20 January – for an open meeting between the two sides at Bowls England’s headquarters in Royal Leamington Spa.
World Bowls Limited, who run the sport worldwide, have set a challenge to any bowlers – or non-bowlers for that matter – who fancy themselves as talented designers.
With a new president – Australian Joe Aarons – and a re-structured Board of Directors, World Bowls plans to change its logo, and has offered a prize of four sets of lawn bowls and bags to the person who submits the winning design.
The design must include the words ‘World Bowls’ or the initials WB, and at least one of the following elements: a globe or map of the world; a photo/symbol of lawn bowls.
The closing date for entries is Friday, February 8, and entries should be sent to the Chief Executive of World Bowls, Gary Smith, at email@example.com.
World Bowls Tour Co-operative Funeralcare Tourcard Masters at New Earswick – Quarter-finals: B Arkley bt B Jackson 9-1, 7-8, 2-1; S Roberts bt G Morris 3-6, 8-3, 2-0; S Douglas bt J Candlish 3-5, 5-3, 2-1; J Gower bt G Ansari 9-4, 7-2. Semi-finals: Arkley bt Gower 9-4, 7-7; Roberts bt Douglas 6-4, 7-8, 2-1. Final: Roberts bt Arkley 6-5, 4-0, 2-1.
EIBA national men’s inter-county championship (Liberty Trophy) quarter- finals: Somerset team to play Essex at Loddon Vale on Saturday, January 12 – Rink 1: R Billington (Taunton Deane), B Smith (Taunton Deane), M Denslow (Ilminster), A Colebrooke (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 2: M Woods (Clevedon), M Hamilton (Ilminster), A Rendell (Watchet), R Francis (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 3: R Williams (Street), S Hooper (Watchet), S Wiltshire (Clarrie Dunbar), G Shadwell (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 4: A Poolman, P Birmingham, J Sparkes, C Keating (all Bristol). Rink 5: C Doughty (Clarrie Dunbar), K Bailey (Clarrie Dunbar), N Pearce (Clevedon), T Perkins (Clarrie Dunbar). Rink 6: J Groves (Watchet), S Barnard (Taunton), J Amery (Taunton), P Bryant (Bristol). Res (squad members): S Withers (Clevedon), S Smith (Bristol), P Denslow (Donyatt).
EIBA national men’s championships:- Area quarter finals – Singles, Area 10: M Atkins v R Atkins (tba); M Holmes bt D Magness 21-15; N Smith 21, I Jefferies 17; S Richens bt A McIntyre 14. Area 29: M Hamilton w/o, J Miles scr; S Hooper bt S Sully 21-14; A Owens bt A Rendell 21-1; K Uglow bt J Parsons 21-18. Area 30: R Francis bt S Snook 21-15; M Woods bt A Colebrooke 21-9; J Freeman bt G Shadwell 21-10; B Barry bt W McCay 21-18. Area 31: R Paxton bt R Bateman 21-1. Area 32: P Bennett bt R Avent 21-4; D Hayne w/o, D Roe scr; Z Kidd bt B Kidd 21-14; S Evans bt B Runnalls 21-17.
Pairs – Area 10: I Jefferies bt S Richens 19-18; Area 29: S Ashford bt H Scragg 20-13; M Hamilton bt K Uglow 23-22. Area 30: J Hick bt S Wiltshire 26-12; D McGovern bt P Bryant 22-21; R White bt T Barnes 18-14; M Woods bt P Birmingham 22-3. Area 31: W Davis bt D Veal 22-21; K Phillips bt S Broom 20-13. Area 32: M Eddy by R Avent 22-12; A Hawke bt M Emment 27-8; D Roe bt D Parr 23-20; P Bennett bt O Lucas 20-18.
Warner Leisure Hotels Wessex League: Bromsgrove bt Nomads 101-51 (16-0).