We are delighted that Silksworth's England International David Bolt has agreed to write a blog for the site, the idea is to let David express his views and thoughts on the current state of the sport both locally and nationally.

As you will know David has already built up a reputation second to none in the sport, he has experienced life in the Storey Bowl (many years ago) to march onto represent England at both indoors & outdoors and is currently attempting to build up his Bolt Bowls venture.

We hope you find the blog interesting as it is done without here we go.

The Australian Experience

I recently had the privilege to represent England down under in Brisbane, Australia and wanted to share with you some of the experiences I had whilst there and try to answer a few of the questions I have had since returning from friends and players wanting to know what it is like. My answer to most has been “a different world” and hopefully I can do justice in this blog as to what I mean as well as give an update on the Test Series we had against the Australian International team.
In 2018 the Commonwealth games are to be held at Broadbeach Bowling Club Australia and England took the opportunity to send 7 men and 7 women across to the venue to play in a series of matches against primarily the Australian team but also state and club teams. This would give the English selectors an opportunity to see how the players coped not only on the Australian playing surface but also in the climate in what was a jam packed program over a 12 day period against strong opposition.

Teams Selected:

Men – David Bolt, Louis Ridout, Robert Paxton, Sam Tolchard, Andrew Knapper, Jamie Chestney and Jamie Walker.

Women – Ellen Falkner, Katherine Rednall, Rebecca Field, Sian Honnor, Sophie Tolchard, Wendy King and Natalie Chestney.

Manager Men – Pip Branfield

Manager Women – Gail Gilkes

England Performance Director – John Bell

Diary of Events

Friday 21st April – 8 hour flight to Dubai followed by 15 hour flight to Brisbane arriving at around lunchtime on Sunday 23rd April.
This had been my second visit to Australia having previously played an Under 25 test series in 2003 but we played it in Western Australia whereas this time we were on the Gold coast in the East. Sitting on the bus driving into the Gold coast was an experience in itself and we joked what a dump it was when in reality it was a stunning place with beautiful scenery and made the heart race a little knowing we would be spending the next 12 days here. Although jet lagged having also not had a great deal of sleep on the journey over we checked in to the hotel and made our way down to the Broadbeach club which was only a 5 minute walk away from our hotel. As you will see in the pictures this was no brick shed in the middle of a park that we are primarily used to in the UK. As we walked towards it you just look at the whole set up and can’t help having a little laugh at the difference between where we are used to playing and this amazing facility. 4 pristine looking bowling greens with a glass fronted clubhouse containing a huge restaurant, bar and excellent facilities throughout. This was to be our bowling home for the majority of the trip with only 2 days being spent at the Helensvale Bowling Club around half an hour drive away.
Due to the speed of the greens we all had suitable Australian bias bowls waiting for us at the club provided by the manufacturers of our chosen bowls that we use at home. The bowls we would normally use in the UK would have far too much bias as it is the equivalent of our indoor speed but playing outdoor lines. We took the opportunity to get a couple of hours practice and get an idea how the greens were playing and get comfortable with the new bowls. The fact the majority of us had all arrived from our own indoor season was definitely a help with regards to adapting to the speed of the greens but it was very obvious early on that it would take a little time to get comfortable with the lines required as it was so easy to be punished if missing by small margins. I was generally happy with my initial practice and after a couple of drinks in the baking heat it was time to catch up on some sleep.

Monday 24th April
- This was a designated practise day for the whole team and we took the opportunity to spend a good deal of time trying a different green to the previous day and using all of the rinks playing in small groups. It was extremely hot and humid so this was also a good way to put ourselves through a day of bowls getting used to the conditions. Taking on plenty of fluids was certainly a must and making sure we protected ourselves from burning. Personally I am like a chocolate fireguard when it comes to this. Factor 50 and still ended up looking like a traffic cone by the end of the day. The day ended with the management team putting us through a skills test consisting of bowling to a minimum length jack, full length jack, off centre short jack and off centre full length jack. 3 points were scored for bowls within 12 inches down to 1 point within 36 inches. Certainly not as easy as it sounds on these greens but I was happy to finish 2nd of 14 to the very quiet and unassuming Louis Ridout. He doesn’t tend to let anyone know how well he has done and isn’t very competitive at all.....said nobody ever 😊. It was a very good exercise however as it showed how tough these greens are and unlike at home on our outdoor greens when the jack goes out to the side of the rink we are very used to playing through unused grass and it tends to be very heavy. On these greens however they are very flat and consistent throughout and in some cases the higher lines were quicker than the normal ones. The shorter lengths also found the majority of us out as it was literally a flick of a finger and you would run 5 ft through.

Tuesday April 25th (Anzac Day) - We had been entered into the Anzac pairs competition at the club to give us some competitive bowls leading into the Test series due to start the following day. The format was 1 game of 21 ends and the pair with the highest shot difference at the end was the winner. An eye opener was the turn out for the competition. 28 rinks used so 56 pairs were playing. A great sight seeing 112 players of all ages and in multiple club colours playing in a simple format competition. I was playing lead for Rob Paxton and we managed an 8 shot win on the day. There were times during the day however where it was quite obvious the sharpness wasn’t there with regards to the intricate shots needed playing at international standard. This was not down to poor play but more the lack of green time required to adapt to the conditions. This would be highlighted even more in the test series.

Wednesday April 26th – Friday April 28th
This was the start of the 3 day test series against a very strong Australian outfit. The format of the Test was 3 sessions each day playing in multiple disciplines. So for example the 7 men could be broken down into a triple and a four or 2 pairs and a triple or singles pairs fours etc. This was the same for the women and you would gain a point for each discipline won. Killed ends would be re-spotted on the T.
Without taking anything away from the performance of the Australian team and also without sounding like a sore loser which certainly wasn’t the case the ideal scenario for the Test series would have been England having the opportunity to play all of the state and club teams over the first 9 days and finishing up playing the Australians at the end of our visit to give us the much needed green time and competition before playing the best the country has to offer. Due to their commitments elsewhere it was not possible to do this so we had our backs against the wall a little in trying to compete in their own front yard so to speak. I have tried to give an idea how tough it is and it would be like The Ozzies turning up at Wearmouth on a Friday night in our Grindon League and trying to compete with us on a 6 second green over the dandelions and in the freezing rain 3 days after stepping off the plane. I am not saying they would not have still won but I feel it would have been a far closer test than the eventual result shows even though we performed admirably over the 3 days.

As you may have guessed we were beaten comfortably in the test series but there were some excellent performances by all of the team members throughout and some good wins in disciplines. We were given the opportunity to play in different positions over the course of the test series and played with different formations throughout. Overall I was generally very happy with my performances but day 2 was certainly one that tested every bit of my mental strength. It was the first day we had any sign of what was no more than a strong breeze but what a difference this makes to the running of a bowl. Due to the slickness of the surface any slight wind interference can take your bowl and make you look like a rank amateur and by the end of that day I could have quite happily taken up chess. As an example the wind was swirling left to right across the green and we were playing into it so on the trial end the wind was blowing in a right to left direction and the forehand consequently was playing right out to the edge of the rink. My comment was this is just like playing indoor as I drew within a few inches. By the time I played my first bowl on the same hand during the game the wind had decided to swap to a left to right direction. Not spotting this I gave it the same line and ended up 6 ft wide of the head and this continued throughout the games on that day. To say it battered your head at times was an understatement and what I certainly took from that day was not to concentrate too much on trying to beat the wind. The Australians just seemed to take it in their stride playing the lines they would normally take and if their bowls were caught by a gust then so be it.

Another thing that was an obvious difference was the style of play they use. It is very much a draw or smash game out there. Any players over here who complain about players driving at heads should certainly avoid going to play bowls in Australia. Generally I would class our UK game as a one where heads are built and we play constructive running bowls to turn bowls away or play a 2 yard trail for a count. You can forget about that on those greens. Primarily it is hitting heads very hard at the earliest opportunity if it is not going in your favour. Timing shots are extremely hard to play and a lot of bowls are wasted so you really need to tune in to their way of playing and get your arm swinging. At times there were more bowls on the bank side than on the green but it isn’t necessarily a kamikaze way of playing but more playing to the higher percentage of shot success. My running bowl is one I have worked on for a few years now and it was certainly put to the test out there.
In summary of the test series I would say the Ozzies certainly did their job very effectively but whoever is selected for the England Commonwealth team will certainly put up a greater resistance with a better preparation plan in place prior to the games.

The following program was played after the test series
Saturday 29th April – matches against Broadbeach Bowling Club
Sunday 30th April – Much needed rest day with absolutely no bowls played and some beach time.
Monday 1st May – Day 2 of matches against Broadbeach Bowling Club
Tuesday 2nd May – Matches against State of Queensland
Wednesday 3rd May – Trip to Helensvale Bowling Club to play matches against the host club.
Thursday 4th May – Matches against New South Wales Development squad at Helensvale Bowling Club
Friday 5th May - 2nd day of matches against NSW Development but this time back at Broadbeach Bowling Club.

All in all we played 28 competitive games of bowls over a 10 day period and came away with generally a 50% winning record and invaluable time on the greens. It was obvious the standard of our play was higher the more we adapted to the greens and we were certainly tested by some very strong teams and world class players.

Just on a note to finish I wanted to refer back to the different world comment I made earlier in my blog and just give an understanding as to the differences we see here in the UK compared to what is just common practice out in Australia.
The 2 clubs we visited were constantly busy and had club houses perfectly suited to an environment required for all walks of life. Helensvale has a membership of around 3000............yes 3000 people and 400 of these are bowlers. They have beautiful restaurants and huge bar facilities and not only are they funded through membership but they have numerous gambling machines that provide a huge income to the club. Known as Pokies over there they provide the funds to enable the club to pay a playing salary to players, have their own mini buses to collect their team players and obviously help to maintain the facilities which primarily is the greens. I couldn’t help but laugh on my return to the UK after listening to the millions of dollars that had been spent on refurbishing the club over there I got back to be told our green hadn’t been cut and the water sprinklers weren’t working.  

I did not see anyone playing out there who didn’t have full colour playing shirts and shorts and the club’s were selling the team uniform like we sell our football shirts over here for our beloved teams. They looked like proper teams and seeing the mix of shirts and being able to identify which clubs or states were playing was great to see. It really brought it home with regards to a previous blog I wrote where the pathetic old fashioned rules we have over here are crippling our game. But hey some clubs allow coloured piping now so we are making huge progress!!

Whilst at Broadbeach it was staggering to see how many people of all ages were coming to the greens to just try bowls and treat the club’s like we would go to a pub for an afternoon or night in the UK. The sport is not seen as an old persons game and is embraced by everyone over there. When people on the street were asking why we were there they did not have to be explained to what the game is about and we laughed at how it wasn’t a little embarrassing telling young people what we did. It was actually quite invigorating to get the respect of people who hold the sport in high esteem over there and it is such a shame we do not get the same at home.

To conclude I have got to say it was an amazing, extraordinary experience and whether I am lucky enough to make the commonwealth team or not I will never forget the experience and could not have asked for better people to enjoy it with. All top class players with an amazing attitude and great personalities. The team is to be selected in October so we will see but whoever goes has my total backing and I’m sure there are medals to be had. G'day!!

And its a goodnight from me and a goodnight from him......

David Bolt


Disclaimer- Any views expressed in this blog may not be shared or connected to either the Sunderland & District BA / The City of Sunderland IBC.


Site last updated : Thursday November 30, 2017 2:30 PM