Sunday 26 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Final Day

Sunday 26th January

It’s finals day. Mervyn King from Norfolk took on Darren Burnett from Arbroath in a thrilling final.

This morning we had a Potters Leisure Resort Champion of Champions which I umpired. Throughout the season players from all over the country play in a fours competition at Potters. The final is played on the portable rink on the final day of the World Championships. In this years match, Bassetlaw Bowls Club from Yorkshire played Colchester Bowls Club from Essex. All players mastered the tricky portable rink quite well and the match went to an extra end after a 6-6 draw at 8 ends. Bassetlaw scored 1 on the extra end to secure the win.

Sandra, Bryan and I ready
for the 2014 World Final
Before lunch I had time to relax and start packing. I will be driving home after the Gala Dinner tonight. Mike Davies left this morning feeling unwell. We all wish him a speedy recovery. A light lunch was in order today prior to the final. The food at Potters is superb and there is so much available. It is difficult to resist as you can probably tell from the additional weight I am carrying on the rink. Diet starts tomorrow!!

Prior to the World Final the spectators start queuing early and by the time we arrive to start the pre-match checks, the line is already streaming through the Bowlers Bar in to the reception and back. The Potters Theatre Company put on a little show on the rink for about 30 minutes before the match starts. The crowd get warmed up and the atmosphere is fantastic. Shaun Williamson did a 5 minute comedy slot followed by a fantastic rendition of “Something Inside So Strong”. Butterflies and Adrenaline start to kick in and I tend to hide away in a corner until I am needed about 5 minutes before the match starts.
Shaun Williamson paid us a visit
There was an amazing atmosphere and the noise was deafening when both players nailed the jack. Mervyn won the first set and although not quite playing the same exceptional standard that he did in the Semi-final, he persisted with the draw shot whilst Darren was chasing shots. In a very tight second set it was all square going into the final end. Tension was rising and Darren just managed to win it on a measure. The tie break was electric and there were a couple of occasions where I had to quieten the crowd as the player stepped on the mat. When they are playing to the shot clock it’s important to maintain some control so they do not get disturbed. Darren finally lifted the title of World Indoor Bowls Champion 2014. I was very happy with the way I marked the game which is a great confidence booster.

Following the match us officials cleared all the rink equipment away ready for the next tournament, gave each other a hug (we do that now and again!!) and got ready for the Gala Dinner.

I hope you have enjoyed reading these blogs and they have given you a bit of an insight into what a World Bowls Tour Official does during the biggest tournament on the Bowls calendar.

Feel free to send me any comments or questions and I will do my best to answer them.

Bye Bye from Potters Leisure Resort.

Saturday 25 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Seven

Saturday 25th January

Well, you don’t see that every day, indeed we have not seen it for 3 years since it was introduced. During the second set in last nights’ match between Jonathan Ross and Mervyn King, Jon won £4000 for getting 4 touchers in a single end. This incentive was introduced 3 years ago and was won in the first tournament after its introduction by Robert Paxton. The rule only applies to Quarter-Final stages onwards of televised tournaments run by WBT. The 4 touchers must occur in one end and be chalked as touchers by the marker. If you are not sure, a toucher is a bowl that comes into contact the jack after it has been delivered. The Marker will spray a little chalk mark onto the bowl to indicate that it is a toucher.

Later in the evening after another disappointing Bingo session, we spotted the actor Shaun Williamson (Barry from Eastenders). Shaun is a great supporter of bowls and has appeared a couple of times at tournaments in the past. He is a great guy and it was good to see him at Potters.

So it was the penultimate day and it is Semi-Finals day. First on this morning was a junior final. Young bowlers from local clubs compete throughout the season to earn a place in a final played on the portable rink in front of a packed crowd. It is fabulous to watch the skill these kids have on the bowling green and it is an inspiration to all youngsters to achieve what they do. It also helps the image of our sport to have young talented players such as these and the new World Ladies Matchplay champion.

The first semi-final this morning was between Darren Burnett and Robert Paxton. A top quality game as you would expect for a place in the Final. Darren came out the winner in a straight sets victory playing arguably the best he has even done at the World Championships.

An Umpires eye view of the
rink with Sandra marking
Following this semi-final we welcomed the legend, Willie Wood, on to the rink for a 3 end challenge against Welshman Robert Weale. This game was a Commonwealth Games promotion that the BBC will show during tomorrow’s broadcast. The Commonwealth Games will be hosted by Glasgow in July.

Unfortunately, today we were a man down in the officiating team. Poor Mike Davies is suffering from a DVT and took himself down to the hospital. Luckily we are down to just a couple of games per day and Bryan, Sandra and I will be covering these through to the end now. We wish Mike well and hope to see him back to full strength soon.

This afternoon’s match between Paul Foster and Mervyn King promised to be one of the best of the tournament. Both Mervyn and Paul showed outstanding form to win their Quarter-finals and it was a really hard game to call. It certainly lived up to that. Mervyn was incredible and really didn’t let Paul settle. Paul eventually waved the white flag in the second set and Mervyn progressed to the final to met Darren Burnett.

After this thrilling match we had a short challenge match to launch a new WBT Tournament, “Super-Bowl”. John Price and Andy Thomson took on two of the world best crown green players, Danny Barwise and Chris Brown, in a 9 end match. There was a lot of banter on the rink and with the watching crowd but Andy and John were just too strong for the crowners.

Tonight, after dinner, we have our annual Potters versus WBT game. Us officials and other members of the WBT team play (using that word loosely) a fun roll-up against some of the Potters staff. It’s always good fun and is about the only time I get to put a bowl up on the portable rink. The camera crew are also onsite tonight so we will have a few jars with them in the bar.

Wow, what a day. It has been a bit manic but tomorrow is the big one, the World Final. I will be Marking and Bryan Daly will be Umpiring with Sandra operating the 30 second shotclock. It promises to be a fabulous game and will be live on BBC throughout the afternoon.

Friday 24 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Six

Friday 24th January

Alex dominated the game last night against Gary R Smith and that win saw him through to the Quarter final clash with Paul Foster. After the game the officials relaxed with a game of Bingo in the Atlas Theatre, unfortunately no winners this time. We then watched the excellent show.

Today was Quarter finals day and I was marking the first game between Andy Thomson and Robert Paxton. Bryan Daly was the Umpire and Mike was on the shot clock. It was a great game with a huge variety of shots played and there were plenty of measures as well. Robert played exceptionally well and earned a place in the semi-final.

The umpire and marker work very closely during a game and remain in constant communication with each other. The umpire keeps the scorecard, determines the jack length and measures any disputed shots. As part of the scoring duty the umpire maintains a record of the number of time outs played. This information needs to be relayed to the marker so that when a time out is called, the number remaining can be relayed to the spectators. Also important is to confirm with the marker the number of shots required by a player to win a set, stay in a set or indeed to win a game. When it comes to measuring, it is usually the marker that wedges the bowls where possible so that the umpire simply has to walk on do the measure and walk off. However, we do talk to each other to avoid any confusion over what is required in the measure. Sometimes we even have a quiet bit of banter as well.

I managed to escape for a couple of hours for a walk and skipped lunch. It was the only nice day we have had and although it was cold it was nice to get out for some fresh air.

The afternoon games were an all Scottish affair. The first being reigning champion taking on Darren Burnett. Darren raised his game to take out the defending champion and progresses to the semi-final. This match was followed by the clash of the titans – Paul Foster versus Alex Marshall. It was a high quality game as expected and went all the way to a tie-break. Paul secured the win – just!

The relaxing atmosphere of the Bowlers Bar
This evening we have a “Bucks Fizz” reception where players and officials meet and chat with some of the guests over a glass of the fizzy stuff (or orange juice for us officials). It is a great opportunity for the guests to ask those burning questions to share their bowling experiences with us.

The final game tonight sees local star Mervyn King taking on Jonathan Ross in the last quarter final of the day.

Tomorrow is semi-finals day. Always tense games as the final four battle it out for a place in the World Final. Darren Burnett versus Robert Paxton is the first game on followed by the winner of tonight's game up against Paul Foster.

Thursday 23 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Five

Thursday 23rd January

Well what a game last night between Greg and Darren. It had everything. The first set was a little one sided in Darren’s favour, but Greg found his mojo in the second taking the match to a tie break. The 3 end tie break was a tense affair with very little separating the two players. We had tactical use of “time outs” as well as the third end being killed. Under WBT rules a player may nominate any of their bowls to kill the jack in the third end of the tie break only. If they are successful in getting the jack off the rink, then the bowls would be carried back and replayed. However, they can only kill the end once each.

This mornings’ game was between the two old statesmen of the sport, Andy Thomson and John Price. I was the Marker for this match with Sandra Mcleish as Umpire and Mike Davies as Shot Clock operator. On one end in the second set John opted for a drive shot but took a little too long on the mat and failed to deliver the bowl before the 30 second buzzer sounded. Mike shouted down to me that it was a dead bowl and it was down to me to stop it. It had a fair amount of weight behind it and it did sting a little when I stopped it in its tracks with my foot. It certainly entertained the crowd.

I got one call wrong declaring that John held two shots but on measure it was only one – oh well we are only human. There is added pressure with the shot clock to make a call and we don’t have the luxury of taking our time looking from both sides. It gave “Corky” something to talk about anyway and he does give me a bit of ribbing when I get it wrong, thankfully not very often.
 The match went to the third end of the tie break with both players using all their “time outs”. Eventually Andy came out on top and progresses to the Quarter Final.

Katherine Rednall receives
her Langham Glass Goblet
It was Ladies Finals day today with Rebecca Field from Norfolk and 18 year old Katherine Rednall from Suffolk competing for the World Ladies Matchplay Champion title. There was a capacity crowd in the arena for this final creating a fabulous atmosphere for these two local girls. Katherine dominated the match from start to finish and unfortunately Rebecca could find no reply to her relentless drawing bowls. Katherine is the new World Indoor Ladies Matchplay Champion 2014.

The capacity of the arena is approximately 1000 seats with both stands and the portable rink itself built on top of an 8 rink green. The rink sits within the confines of the underlying green making it slightly shorter than a normal green at just under 36 metres. It is the maximum width with the boundaries set at 5.8 metres wide. There is about ½ metre of rink outside of the boundary lines.

The match after the Ladies final saw World number 1, Paul Foster playing Danny Dennison for a place in the Quarter Final. I was on the shot clock for this one and it was an uneventful game for us officials. Paul won the match in a straight 2 set win over Danny meaning we had an early end to this afternoon’s session.

Tonight we have the last second round match between Alex Marshall and Gary R Smith which promises to be a cracker. The winner will proceed to the quarter final to meet Paul Foster.

Tomorrow is quarter finals day and we are expecting a packed house and some fabulous matches. 

Wednesday 22 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Four

Wednesday 22nd January

Last night’s game proceeded smoothly with Jonathan Ross winning the match and moving into the Quarter-finals to play Mervyn King. It was a quiet night and I retired to my room to watch TV and have an early night.

This morning we had the first of the Ladies World Matchplay semi-finals between local girl Rebecca Field and Julie Forrest from Scotland. As expected it was a fabulous standard of bowls. Rebecca played some incredible conversion shots to power her way through to the final.

"Lammo" in action today
As officials we have to have a good working relationship with the production team and camera crew, There are 10 cameras around the rink; 2 behind each end of the set looking down the rink, 2 sitting high above each end of the rink, 2 at the side of the rink, 2 boom cameras or “Jimmy Jobs” and finally 2 ditch cams. We have to understand the shots that the director requires and the angles that are used. The last thing the viewers want to see are our bums blocking the view of the bowl coming into the head. We have a good laugh with the crew and over the years we have got to know some of the camera operators well. One such Jimmy Jib operator and ace cameraman is Neil “Lammo” Lammond. He is a fantastic guy and a great laugh and we do get up to some fun antics off rink and also on rink. As the off rink umpire we are working right next to these guys and we do have some fun, it’s always a surprise when we walk between ends to discover what mischief they have been up to with our umpire kit. Lammo is very skilled Jib operator and can produce some stunning shots. I was lucky enough to have a go with one of the Jibs last year and it was incredibly difficult. It gave me a fascinating insight into how much skill is required to keep the camera on the subject as well as in focus and move the enormous boom around without knocking anything over. The only downside to working alongside these guys is that they eat our sweets when we are not looking!

This afternoon’s match was between the reigning Singles Champion, Stewart Anderson and Robert Weale. Stewart completely dominated the match and progressed through to the Quarter finals to face the winner of tonight’s game between Greg Harlow and Darren Burnett

My afternoon shot clock game was the second Ladies Matchplay semi final between Alison Merrien from Guernsey and local star Katherine Rednall. There is only one word to describe Katherine’s performance – WOW!! This talented 18 year old Suffolk girl has nerves of steel, she has bags of confidence and I think Rebecca will need to play her top game if she is to lift the trophy. This will be a fabulous final and we can anticipate a packed arena of local support for a Suffolk v Norfolk final.

The final game tonight is the afore mentioned 2nd round match between Greg and Darren. I will be umpiring this one. We often get asked by the spectators in the arena and in the Q&A sessions how we work out the Jack lengths that we announce when the jack has come to rest. Sometimes, I like to play around and tell them that the jack has an internal GPS device and we have a little SatNav which tells us the distance as the jack rolls down the rink. Of course that is a load of old tosh. It’s nowhere near as technical as that. We know that a full length with the mat on the “T” and the jack on the other “T” is 29½ metres. The rinks is marked with spots 1 metre apart and so we simply look at the position of the mat and where the jack finishes and deduct that from 29½.

So we are looking forward to a great day tomorrow with the Ladies Matchplay Final. I will be marking the first match of the day at 10am between the old statesmen of the sport, Andy Thomson and John Price and then we have the final at 1pm.

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Tuesday 21 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Three

Tuesday 21st January

The ladies pairs challenge certainly lived up to all expectations last night. Top quality bowls from all four ladies. In the end it was Rebecca Field and talented teenager Kathryn Rednall who triumphed.

The usual routine this morning, breakfast at 8:15 and preparation for the first game of the day between Robert Paxton and Jason Greenslade. I was marking this match with Bryan Daly umpire and Sandra Mcleish on the shot clock.

It was a packed house as well which added a great atmosphere to an entertaining match. There was a whole range of shots being played especially from Jason who always has an exciting swashbuckling style about his game. The game was a good one to mark. Jason consistently pushed the shot clock to the limits, often delivering his bowl with only 1 or 2 seconds remaining. Indeed one bowl he released just as the buzzer sounded. I was also required to help Bryan with a long ditch measure in the second set. The morning matches are broadcast live on the BBC red button so we do get a good days coverage.

A packed house for the
World Mixed Pairs this afternoon
This afternoon we had the final of the Mixed Pairs Matchplay with Paul Foster and Laura Thomas taking on Andy Thomson and Kathryn Rednall. It was a high quality game live on BBC2. Both girls played incredibly well and Kathryn in particular showed amazing maturity in her first live TV final. I am sure we are going to see a lot more of her in the years to come. Paul and Laura finally won the match.

It was another quick turn around like yesterday for the second game of the afternoon. The trial ends were underway whilst the photographs of the Mixed Pairs champions were still being taken at the end of the rink. We only had about 5 minutes to get the next game on the way.

Our MC, Richard Beare, does a fabulous job of introducing the players and warming up the crowd before the matches. Although not everyone is pleased to hear him sing!!, he does have a great voice and I have a lot of admiration for anyone that can just belt out a song in front of loads of people like he does on the rink. He is a great entertainer and keeps everybody smiling. Richard and us officials all get on brilliantly and have a good laugh both on and off the rink. Right that’s the tenner you owe me for that praise Richard!!

The second game of the afternoon was probably the best of the tournament so far. Mervyn King took on Nick Brett in a game full of super accurate draw bowls, perfect take out shots and accurate drives. It went all the way to a third end in the tie break. Mervyn just managed to score the final shot and moves into the Quarter-final to play the winner of this evenings game. The only minor issue during the game was a shot clock malfunction – I just couldn’t stop the countdown and the buzzer went off. It works using a radio signal from the handset to the two clocks at the end of the rink and we appeared to lose the signal.

I am umpiring the evening game between Les Gillett and Jonathan Ross and will report on that tomorrow. I will also do a little feature on the camera crew and the production side of things. It is ladies singles semi-final day tomorrow which will be a great standard of bowls.

Hope you are enjoying the blogs; if you want to know anything about the behind the scenes goings on, feel free to tweet, facebook message or comment on the blog.

Monday 20 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day Two

Day 2 – Monday 20th January

Last night the team of officials enjoyed a spot of Bingo in the Atlas Theatre and walked away with £100. This was followed by a spectacular show from the Potters Theatre Company rivalling anything I have seen in the West End. After a nice midnight snack of sweet n sour pork and a beer or two it was off to bed.

Today was World Indoor Pairs Finals Day. My usual daily routine didn’t change though as we had a singles match this morning. Alarm went off at 7:30 for an 8:15 breakfast. I tend to stick to the same thing as we are constantly shoving food down our throats here. So I have a nice smoked haddock breakfast with plenty of Tea to wake me up.

The first game at 10am was between Robert Weale from Wales and Michael Stepney from Scotland. It promised to be a cracking match and didn’t disappoint. I was operating the Shot Clock for this match. Perched high above the rink at the back of the smaller stand, I have a good view over the whole rink, ideal for this role.

The Shot Clock was introduced last season and initially caused us Officials some concern. However, we now have no issues with it and it just becomes part of our match duties. The main change is that we have had to introduce a fourth official to allow each of us a break during the day. The Shot Clock demands a high level of concentration at the crucial stage of the ends and of course the match. The clock is started when a players bowl comes to rest or when the rink becomes available for play (I will explain that in a moment). The following player then has 30 seconds to deliver their bowl. If the bowl does not leave their hand by the time the buzzer sounds then that bowl is declared dead. The first 4 bowls are always delivered within about 5 seconds of each other so not too much stress there. It is when the players visit the head and play their final bowls that it becomes crucial. So I mentioned that the clock will not start until the rink is ready for play. This covers the duties that a marker has to carry out such as marking touchers, clearing dead bowls and re-spotting the jack etc. The player would not be able to bowl if we were dancing around clearing things up and eating into their time.

Robert eventually managed to come out on top in a tense tiebreak and then it was off for an early lunch. It hardly felt like a couple of hours since we were tucking into breakfast so it was a salad for me today. The early lunch was due to the 1pm start time for the Pairs Final.

On paper this looked to be an amazing battle and it sure was. Greg Harlow and Nick Brett; the local boys, against the defending champions Paul Foster and Alex Marshall – both of whom are honoured with an MBE. Incredible bowls from all four players. Couple of calliper measures for me as umpire and fantastic crowd support made this a great final broadcast live on BBC2.

This match was quickly followed by a singles tie between defending Singles Champion Stewart Anderson and qualifier Joshua Grant. Quick changeover matches are a bit of a headache for us officials, especially when they are going out live and they involve a final. But like a well oiled machine we all know where we should be and what we should be doing.

Stewart dominated the singles match, which I marked, but full credit to Joshua he played some amazing shots. In the end it was all down to experience and Joshua admitted in the post match interview that the rink is hard to play. Choice of shot is so crucial.

Tonight we have a Ladies pairs challenge match which should be good entertainment with some top quality bowls. Then it’s an early night for me. Tomorrow, the main event is the Mixed Pairs Final at 1pm.

Sunday 19 January 2014

World Indoor Championships - Day One

Day 1 – Sunday 19th January
Welcome to my first blog of the week at the World Indoor Bowls Championships at the Potters Leisure Resort.

It was changeover day for us officials with Dan Bluett and Francis Fletcher, returning home after a busy week whilst myself and Mike Davies arrived for the final week of the championships.

The first game this morning was between Danny Denison and Simon Skelton with Mike on the rink marking and I was umpiring. It was an uneventful game for the officials and I was not called on for any decisions.  Danny finished the match after a close tie break just pippin Simon at the end.

The match was followed by a Q&A session in the Terrace bar. These are always an interesting feature as you are never quite sure what sort of tough questions the panel will end up being asked.
Myself, Richard Maddison, CEO of WBT and Julie Forrest from Scotland faced a barrage of interesting questions from an interested audience.
After a quick lunch, Bryan and I returned to the rink for a camera rehearsal for tomorrow’s Mixed Pairs Final. The BBC have rigged their cameras and we are ready to start live broadcast from Monday. The camera rehearsal is to help the producers figure out the best cameras to use to cover the presentation. Us officials usually act as the winner and runner up – probably the only time we are going to win something this big – that’s why we are officials and not players.

The two Mixed Pairs Matchplay semi-finals commenced at 2pm. I marked the first one between David Gourlay and Eleanor Gass and the reigning champions Paul Foster and Laura Thomas. Again it was an uneventful game for me and Bryan. Paul and Laura won both sets to progress to the final for the second consecutive year. The following game was between Greg Harlow and Janice Gower, Andy Thomson and the talented teenager Kathyrn Rednall. Bryan and I switched rolls and I was only troubled with a straight forward 2 bowl box measure. It was a great game which went to the wire but Thomson and Rednall finally triumphed to meet the reigning champions in the final.

No game this evening so it’s time to relax before dinner and then maybe a show and a couple of beers.

Back tomorrow with the highlight of the day being the Men’s Pairs final.