Thursday 14 September 2023

World Champs 2023 - DONE!

Back home now and time to wrap up the last few days of a fabulous World Championships.

The focus fell on the Broadbeach Bowls Club where the finals of the second week were being held. I was not required on the Saturday but took the opportunity to spend some time with my adopted Aussie mum and ITO, Pam Hockings, learning the intrigate details of the laser measure and showing her how we do a line bowl with a string. Pam has perfected the Laser measure and my faith has been restored in its use whilst watching her during the second week. Still plenty of things that can go wrong but then there is that risk with any measuring device. The first choice equipment for carrying out a line bowl or jack is the telescopic scope at these events. Unfortunately the TV broadcast rinks prevented their use due to the set being too close to the edge of the bank. This meant we had to use the mirror, or liner siter. Its simple enough to set up and use and actually a little more accurate than the mirrors we used to have in the UK. Personally, I still think that using a string and a set square is a better method but I was not able to convince a number of ITOs that were now watching us and discussing various pros and cons. I love these opportunities for discussion as they are useful for trying to make equipment use consistent around the World at these events.

The TV broadcast rink on Green 4 at Broadbeach looked impressive and created a great atmosphere for the competitors in these finals. On the Saturday the Mens Fours and Womens Pairs finals were contested along with the Quarter and Semi-finals of the Men's Singles. There were some excellent close contests in both the finals with Scotland narrowly missing out on Gold to Australia in the Fours 10 shots to 12. In the Women's Pairs, Malta were again narrowly defeated by Malaysia 11 shots to 15. 

As I had a bit of spare time I took the opportunity to travel down the coast to Snapper Rocks with my roomie, Daryl Rowley. We just about had time for a spot of lunch at the surf club and a walk around to take some photos. I was due back at Broadbeach for flag duties at the medal ceremonies but had slightly underestimated how long  the journey back would take due to the weekend traffic. I made it back just as the final end of the Pairs was being played. 

The view from Snapper Rocks back to Broadbeach

Frog Rock!

On Sunday I was scheduled to umpire the Women's Triples Final at 9:00am. It was a fabulous morning again and the atmosphere on the broadcast rink was building early when I arrived. For me the game went without a call and indeed without any issues. It looked like I might get a call to do a ditch measure right in front of me but the players opted to do it themselves with a box measure!. Regardless of whether I was used or not it was a huge honour to officiate at a Final. 

The impressive Broadcast Rink
before the Women's Triples Final

After a bit of lunch at the club, I hung around for the Men's singles final between Gary Kelly of Ireland and Ryan Bester of Canada. I marked the final of the singles in 2016 in New Zealand when Ryan won the Silver Medal to NZs Shannon McIlroy. I was quietly rooting for him to go one better this time. After an intense "wham bang thank you ma'am" game with bowls and jack flying everywhere, Ryan eventually came out the winner with a scoreline of 21-16. A fantastic win for a humble and fabulous guy. Well done Ryan.

Rinkside view of the Singles Final with
Bernie Hill on Scoreboard and Dary Rowley as Umpire

Back to the appartment and some suitcase packing was required as it would be an early start on Monday when everyone was leaving. We returned to the club in the evening for the closing ceremony with snacks and a couple of drinks. It was great to get all the ITOs back in the same room again and it was a great atmosphere. It was also an opportunity to say farewell to some of the players and other officials.  A few of us enjoyed our last meal together in town before saying goodbye.

On Monday I was up early to leave the appartment and head off for a bit of whale watching. The seas were rough and I got soaked but we did see some whales and had an adventurous time. Following this I headed back up to Tamborine Mountain for some lunch and a walk through the forest before heading up to the Glass House Mountains for a spectacular sunset. My flight back to the UK via Hong Kong was at 1am on Tuesday morning so after dropping the rental car at the airport I settled down for the wait and then the overnight flight to HK. This was followed shortly after by a 14 hour trek back to London arriving just after 6pm.

Ready for a bit of Whale watching

Incredible trees on Tamborine Mountain

Sunset at the Glass House Mountains

What a fantastic fortnight of competition, friendship, good food, sun and laughs. I am never pleased to leave Australia, it's a fabulous country. Lots to follow up on from a Laws Advisory Group perspective but also with the various discussions that were had amongst us all over the event.

Until next time, thank you Australia for another fabulous trip.

Feel free to drop me any questions but until next time, thank you for reading my nonsense and following my journey. Hope it gave you a bit of an insight into the World Champs from an ITO perspective.

Right time to sleep off this jetlag and then do some proper work to pay for it all!     

What a great team of ITOs

Friday 8 September 2023

Week two review and The Trashes

Sorry for the radio silence for the past few days, its been a busy week.

On Sunday evening all of the ITOs enjoyed a get together at a local Chinese Restaurant. It was great to see everyone having a relaxing meal and a good chat after the heavy officiating schedule in the first week.

Monday we all had a day off. I hired a car and collected it early. Daryl Rowley, Bob Penny, Angie Thompson, Sue Mates and I drove off into the Mountains. It was cool but clear and we were afforded some stunning views from various lookouts and waterfalls. In the afternoon we made our way over to Tamborine Mountain and visited a Glow Worm Cave which was interesting. We walked a short circuit of a creek and saw some Fruit Bats. The Gold Coast Hinterland really is a sub-tropical paradise.

We finished the day with a lovely meal at the impressive Tweed Heads Club just over the border in New South Wales. This club is just enormous with 4 outdoor greens, an indoor green and 4 restaurants plus a huge entertainment area. Famous for hosting the Australian Indoor Championships and the Golden Nugget Invitational.

It was back to the 5:30am alarm calls on Tuesday morning as the start of the second week of competition commenced. The sectional play rounds of the Men’s Singles and Fours together with the Women’s Triples and Pairs would see us through to Friday and the knockout rounds.

This week really was eat, sleep, bowl, repeat. With no real issues to deal with it has been quite a relaxed stress-free few days. I was again based at the excellent Helensvale Club.

Evenings have been spent eating either at Broadbeach Club or in town following our debriefs with the CTO and TD. Fatigue is setting in and the majority of ITOs are getting to bed early. Weather has been glorious with no rain. The greens at Helensvale have been fast as a result and estimates of 16-17 seconds in the mid afternoon has made for some challenging but high quality matches.

On Friday, after finishing early with the 2 quarter and semi-final sessions we held the all important Trashes trophy match at Broadbeach. The Trashes (a play on the Ashes) started at the Melbourne 2006 Commonwealth games as an Australia versus England single rink challenge match. We have contested the Trashes at each Commonwealth Games and World Championships since then. Needless to say the Aussies struggle on our heavier greens and we struggle on their faster surfaces and so the results have reflected the north v south hemisphere venues. I won’t share the score, it was too embarrassing!

This is the final weekend of the event. Saturday and Sunday we play the finals of each discipline and then Monday I have a day spare before commencing the long journey home.

I will review the finals and the overall event when I get home next week.

The amazing views from Springbrook National Park

Purling Brook Falls

The ancient trees are amazing

The Golden Nugget Trophy at Tweed Heads

The impressive Tweed Bowls Club

ITOs waiting for the bus on our last day at Helensvale.


Saturday 2 September 2023

Final Stage of Week One

So here we are at the knockout stages of the Women’s Fours, Women’s Singles, Men’s Pairs, Men’s Triples and the Para Mixed and Women’s Pairs. On Friday, all play was at Broadbeach Bowls club and a few of us had some time off following the heavy schedule on the previous days. It was nice to have a lay in.

I took a stroll through the park down to the huge Pacific Fair shopping mall. I needed a new FitBit strap but none of the shops were opening until 10am which was a bit odd for a Friday. I also couldn’t figure out why the park and the beach were so busy. Was it “work from home” Friday? I found out it was a public holiday called Show Day. Despite the aborted shopping trip it was a pleasant morning walk.

Beach side park looking amazing in the early morning

The amazing Pacific Fair Mall

I headed up to Broadbeach for an afternoon marking duty. It was my session to be assessed so had to be on my best behaviour. I was marking again for Ellen Ryan from Australia verses Debbie Colquohoun from Spain. Always a pleasure marking for the Aussie players and it was an easy enough game to mark with Ellen coming out the winner.

After a delicious Fish & Chip lunch from the shop across from the club, the afternoon was spent chatting with ITOs that I hadn’t seen for a few days. In particular an excellent discussion with Michael Johnson from New Zealand about umpire development and training. Michael is the Chair of the Bowls New Zealand Umpires and has some excellent forward thinking ideas and I hope we can work closer together on some common ground.

Just before Michael and I left for a walk back to the Pacific Fair Mall a big commotion on Green 1 as a thief was apprehended on the green by New Zealander Andrew Kelly and a chasing police officer. It was all very dramatic.

Andrew Kelly tackles a criminal (photo: Alis Butten)

We found a bar overlooking the ocean. It was a stunning setting for a cold beer and even saw some breaching Whales not too far from the shore. A lovely meal at Tepanyaki ended a nice relaxing day.

Stunning view from a busy bar 

Ok, yes that is skippy the Kangaroo, but it was delicious

A thank you from the amazing chef at Tepanyaki

Alarm set for 5:30 again Saturday for our day at Helensvale. Back to my familiar territory but with a lot more ITOs than I have been used to for the previous week. 5 finals were decided, with the additional Women’s Singles Semi-finals also being played.

The TV crews had arrived early and already set up on Green 3 for the 2 broadcast rinks. It was interesting to see they had placed the cameras including the huge boom rigs on the rinks on spreader plates. That would be very unusual in the UK due to the softer greens. It means they can broadcast from centre rinks and not just rely on end rinks.

Live broadcast setup for the finals

First up on the broadcast rink were the Women’s Fours final between England and Australia in which England were the eventual Gold Medal winners. At the same time Australian Para mixed pairs were victorious against South Africa on Green 3. Earlier the Women’s singles semi-finals were being played on Green 1. England’s Katherine Rednall was extremely unfortunate after a drive and killed end resulted in a one shot loss on the respot to Canada. On the other rink New Zealand defeated Australia resulting in a Canada versus New Zealand final to be played on Sunday.

England win the Women's Fours

The afternoon session had Australia and Northern Irelands Men’s Pairs being contested with Northern Ireland winning the Gold Medal in convincing style. At the same time New Zealand took on Scotland in the Para Women’s Pairs final with the Kiwi’s taking Gold.

In the final session of the day a clash of the titans in the Men’s Triples final saw Scotland take on Australia in the only scheduled match. The formidable Australia team of Carl Healey, Aaron Sheriff and Corey Wedlock won Gold. 

Next duty, although I’m sure it was not in the job description was the flag raising. I’m not a great fan of heights and so to be standing at the top of the stand against the safety rail raising a flag was a bit of a shaky moment, but I managed to get through the 5 medal ceremonies.

The flag raising team (including me taking the photo)

Back to Broadbeach for a bite to eat in the club which had some live music and a decent atmosphere and then to bed. Another early morning tomorrow for the Para Mixed Pairs and Women’s Singles finals.

Back at Helenvale on Sunday we hosted the Para Mens Pairs final and the Women's Singles final. 
Both game were tight affairs score wise with just a few shots in it. Australia triumphed in an inspirational Para Men's Pairs final against South Africa. 
In the Women's Singles it came down to 3 shots difference at the end when New Zealands Tayla Bruce, who resigned from her teaching job to get the time off to attend these Championships, defeated Kelly McKerihen to win the Gold Medal. Incredible games.

Most of the ITOs enjoyed a Chinese Meal together on Sunday night before a day off on Monday.

Back to the sectional play of the second week on Tuesday so will be back during the week.


The competition hots up


After a few rain showers on Tuesday we awoke to a clear fresh morning and took the stroll to the bus at 6:15am. It takes about 40 minutes to get to Helensvale via Musgrave Hill club where we drop the team headed by DCTO Michael Johnson from New Zealand. After the usual first day jitters and finding our feet we arrived on Day 2 and got on with our pre-match routines like a well oiled machine.

There were some new faces on my team for Day 2 and its great for them to move around venues and work with everyone, it’s a great way of cementing those strong friendships. I had a team of 9 today. They just got on with their jobs and that’s all you ask of them really. Its great to see everyone working well together.

Play underway at Helensvale

Women’s singles and fours and Men’s pairs were played plus we had the streaming team onsite. First session I carried out some assessments of the ITOs, followed by marking a singles match between Ellen Ryan, Commonwealth Gold medalist and Ineke Spangenberg from the Netherlands. It was a great match with Ellen coming out victorious. For the final session I was roving, otherwise known as the spare umpire. This role just helps with covering calls when the 2 green umpires are occupied or to offer assistance for 2 person measures. Usually the rover would cover two greens but at Helensvale that is a challenge due to the construction works on the middle green.

Scorecards ready for collection by the managers

ITO assessments are an initiative developed by World Bowls to assess the performance of their ITOs whilst at these major events. It’s a great tool for identifying areas of improvement but also for noting excellent performances. They are not a stick for beating the ITO. Each ITO receives 3 assessments as Umpire and 3 as Marker and are conducted by the DCTOs at each venue. Ratings are provided for several criteria which range from 1, below standard and 3, above standard. The standards set down by the World Bowls Officiating Document and selection criteria are used. As I hope you expect there are very few issues to note but we do have some ITOs attending for the very first time at a World event and its great to be able to offer constructive feedback to them. The results from each assessment are entered on to a Performance Report spreadsheet and a report is generated for each ITO. This is also a useful tool for World Bowls to use for future event selection.

Scorecards are checked by the Umpire and submitted to the venue coordinator for entering on the BowlsLink results system which you can access from the World Championships website. So far we have not had any discrepancies so fingers crossed for the rest of the event.

Unfortunately, on Day 2 we received official confirmation that Kenya would not be attending and their games would be forfeited to their opponents. This means that their opponents will receive byes in those rounds. Not too sure why they were eventually unable to make the trip but most likely to do with Visas.

As you are probably aware by now all teams are playing with Red and Blue bowls and it is expected that the show up with the correct colours to play the competition. However, on Day -1 we learned that Samoa didn’t have any bowls let alone the correct colour so the management team were busy running around various clubs and raiding the merchandise tent for bowls. On Day 2 at Helensvale just before the start of the second session I was alerted to the Singapore singles player only having a set of Red bowls with her and she was due to play in Blue. Thankfully, the lovely Laura from Switzerland agreed to change back to Blue and the problem was solved. However, you couldn’t make this up as no sooner had we resolved that, we then discovered that Papua New Guinea only had a set of Blue and a set of Green! Again, the kind gents from Falkland Islands agreed to swap back to their Red bowls. All resolved amicably in the end.  All these things sent to try us!

Few questions about temperatures here on the Gold Coast. Tuesday at Helensvale we peaked at around 24 degrees. There was an impressive lightning storm in the evening and the low overnight was 15 degrees. Wednesday similar daytime temperatures peaking around 27 degrees. Ironically during the storm in the evening, snow fell just up the road at the Glass House Mountains, about 70 miles away north of Brisbane.

Back at Broadbeach for our DCTO debrief, we selected the officials for the various roles for the knockout stages at Helensvale over the weekend.

Getting to the business end of the first week now and I will be back with you tomorrow as we hit the knockout rounds.

Wednesday 30 August 2023

World Championships are underway

I met up with fellow Brits, Angie Thompson and Bob Penny off their flight at the arrivals hall after a great deep sleep on Saturday night. After a leisurely drive down from Brisbane Airport on Sunday morning we dumped our luggage at the accommodation as we couldn’t check in until 2pm and then headed off to the Broadbeach Bowls Club to get our bearings.

One of the greens at Broadbeach Bowls Club

Sunday was spent relaxing and checking in our apartments and meeting old and new friends. It was great to be back after 5 years.

ITO Meeting 
Day -1 on Monday and all the ITOs met at Broadbeach for our meeting and introduction. We were welcomed by World Bowls President Daryl Clout and CEO Neil Dalrymple before our detailed introduction from CTO, John Roberts and TD, Mark Cowan. It was an opportunity for us to run through the finer details for the event and to ask any questions on the Conditions of Play.

Time for a quick bite of lunch before getting changed into our new uniforms and returning back to Broadbeach. At this event we are trialling the use of Laser measures for the first time. They are not in general use yet and so it was an opportunity for us all to run through their operation form those that are proficient with them. There were other discussions around equipment as there always is at these World gatherings. It was then all on the bus to Helensvale Bowls Club for the Opening Ceremony

A bit of practice with the laser measures

As I said in my previous post, there are 44 countries represented and it was great to see all the players and officials together and mingling in one venue. There was a great atmosphere. After the formalities of the ceremony we were treated to drinks and canapes in the excellent club.

Not quite enough food for us growing chaps so a few of us headed into town when we got back to Broadbeach for a meal and a good old catchup.

44 Nations at the Opening Ceremony

Day 1 and here we go. I am based at Helensvale as Deputy CTO for the duration and with the first session of games starting at 8:30 we had to leave our accommodation as the sun was rising at 6:15am. Thankfully everyone made it to the bus on time and after dropping the team at Musgrave Hill we arrived at Helensvale and got into full organisation mode.

First jobs – check the umpires kits. Ideally, we would have done this a couple days before and unfortunately there were some items missing but most ITOs had bought some of their own equipment. Next, on to checking the rinks and in particular the 25 metre side markers. It is common in Australia for the minimum length jack to be 21 metres with a 23 metre side marker so we had to check they were amended. Then on to timing the greens. This is something we do every morning to record the pace of the green and announce that at the start of play. It involves 2 ITOs timing the delivery of a bowl to a distance of 27 metres. Taking the average of 3 timings gives us the pace and they worked out to be 14 and 15 seconds for Green 1 and 3 respectively.

The new canopy at Helensvale Bowls Club

Helensvale has 3 greens, the centre one is now a synthetic surface with an impressive canopy and clubhouse extension being built. It is a huge investment. Green 1 is nearest the road and green 3 is on a higher level and surround by seating. Both superb greens as you would expect. From previous photos I have posted, some have commented on how brown the rinks are and indeed they do look a bit like chipboard and are really solid. These are tiff dwarf grass which lays dormant this time of year so don’t need much cutting. They go a little greener in the summer months but are still rock hard. Also many have commented on the many lines on the greens. Because the grass doesn’t get cut very often they can mark the centre lines with chalk and they last for around 3-4 weeks. It’s a quick and simple way of ensuring mat and jack are centred and certainly speeds up the games. There are no such things as 2 metre sticks here, they just think that is hilarious, and to be quite honest when you see all the 2 metre positions marked, I can understand why.

Duties for an ITO include, umpires x 2 per green, markers for singles, rovers which are like spare umpires for the 2 greens and timekeepers should there be any slow play challenges. As the schedules are so busy for the first few days of sectional play we are working with just 2 umpires and the markers as we do not have enough ITOs to cover everything. I covered an umpire duty in the first session followed by a marking duty and then again umpiring in the last session.

At each venue each day, 3 rounds of the first 3 disciplines of Women’s Singles, Mens Pairs and Womens Fours are being played. We also have the Para athletes competing alongside these disciplines. Each session starts with an announcement to commence trial ends 15 minutes before the game start time. After completing the trial ends the players wait for the timekeeper to sound the airhorn for the start of the session – you know its coming but it still makes you jump!

All sessions in the sectional play are 2 hours and 15 minute in duration. One of the duties of the umpire is to record the number of ends played at the half way time. If some are lagging behind the expected number of ends we have a quiet word to chivvy them along a bit. The majority of games so far have been completed on time.

Each ITO is undergoing a working assessment whilst officiating. 3 x Marker and 3 x Umpire duties are assessment by myself and the other DCTOs and CTO. It gives us a good indication of their performance and is used to develop them and guide us on future selection for final stages of competition and other World events.

End of day one came along and with sore feet and some burnt noses we staggered back to the coach to take us back to Broadbeach. The 4 DCTOs from each venue then met for a short debrief with the CTO and TD – we seem to have more acronyms than AC12 in Line of Duty!! There were no issues at Helensvale, a quiet word with a team manager about the number of coaches at the end of the rink and also a spot of rink possession and that was about it. There were a couple of issues a one venue that were handled very well by the DCTO. They also had a flooded green at one point as the heavens opened but it was all drained withing 20 minutes and play resumed. The great thing about sub-tropical rains showers is they rarely last long and you are all dried out within the hour.

Bed at 9:30 shattered. Up at 5:30 again for day 2

Stay tuned for more behind the scenes insights. If you get the chance to take a look at some of the live streaming, follow the Bowls Australia Facebook page, link below – the only official link so don’t fall foul of the many scammers out there.

Meanwhile enjoy some of the photos from the first few days whilst I go and have a cup of tea and a TimTam.

Our amazing ITOs from India, Shubhra and Jitenda

Rita Shek from Hong Kong attentively Marking

Helensvale Bowls Club looking amazing on Day 1

Broadbeach Bowls Club

Some practice at Broadbeach

Trialing Laser measures