This years European Bowls Championships, was played between 9th and 14th July at the National Centre for Bowling (Northfield) Ayr, Scotland. It was the first time the Championships were played under the auspices of Bowls Europe Ltd.. Previously, it had been organised by the “European Bowls Union” (E.B.U.). With the change in the company came a change in format.
Latterly, when the E.B.U. had organised the tournament, it was run as a mixed pairs and mixed rinks tournament. This year saw the format change to the format used in the World Championships and Commonwealth games – teams of 5 men and 5 women with singles, pairs, triples and fours being played.
That said, like the World Championships, countries did not have to enter all the disciplines and could choose to enter as many or as few as they wanted or could. This format was very well welcomed by the vast majority of countries.
Spain entered a full team –
Graham Cathcart (Triples and Fours), Tom Rogers (Singles and Triples) Pete Bonsor (Pairs and Fours), Graham Shoots (Pairs and Fours) and Craig Lewis (Triples and Fours).
Carol Broomfield (Singles and Pairs), Debbie Colquhoun (Pairs and Triples), Lisa Bonsor (Triples and Fours), Hazel Brown (Triples and Fours), Jenny Thompson (Triples and Fours) and Gillian Atkinson (Substitute)
The squad arrived 3 days early in order to get much-needed practice on the grass greens. It took a day or two for some of the players to get their deliveries and such like adapted to suit playing on grass.
Playing on grass always tends to cause difficulty for Spain, as it does other countries who constantly play on carpet. What made it all the worse, though, was, surprisingly, the condition of some of the greens at Northfield. They proved to be very heavy and in some cases, almost unplayable. This was mainly caused to the greens not being used for nearly 2 years due to COVID. But it was what it was and the players all tried 100% to adapt as best they could.
Aside from the foreign surface, Spain also had to, unfortunately, contend with illness throughout the squad. This led to at various times, players being unable to play OR play whilst feeling very unwell.
My main target for the championships was to finish in the top 10 in the team event and push for, if not qualify for the Semi finals in a couple of disciplines. As always, however, if the squad gave 100% effort and learned from the experience, I would be happy. In general terms, all targets were met, but with a bit of luck could have been a whole lot better.
Generally speaking, the men adapted to the conditions far better than the women. The single biggest problem for the women’s team was, as, unfortunately experienced at previous championships played on grass, adapting to the heavy conditions.
In an ideal world, the squad would arrive much earlier to assist in adapting to playing on grass, but due to the squad receiving no financial support, the players cannot afford to do so.
In the mens disciplines –
Tom Rogers, who played in the singles, was drawn in a hard section. He got off to a great star, winning 2 out of his 3 games on the first days play, but then came unstuck. Tom, as he always does, gave 100% effort but, on the day, found it hard going playing against some very good opponents, particularly when he was having to play 3-4 games per day. Tom ended up finishing 9th.
In the Pairs, Graham Shoots and Pete Bonsor, were up against it as Pete had to play whilst being ill. Indeed, Pete had little practice before the tournament began due to his illness.
They narrowly lost their first game against Guernsey. With a bit of luck and with a fully fit Pete, they would have won. Losing it, however, was to prove costly. Having played very well together, they finished 3rd in their group. If the had drawn or won that first game against Guernsey, they would have qualified for the semi finals.
In the Triples, Craig Lewis, Tom Rogers, and Graham Cathcart got off to a great start winning their first game comfortably. However, in their second game, they put themselves up against it by losing against the Netherlands. A game they should have won. That meant they had to beat at least one of the top two seeds in the group (England and Scotland).
It wasn’t to be. Whilst they won every other one of their matches comfortably, they couldn’t overcome either Scotland or England.
In the game against Scotland till the 10th end, playing very well and looked like they were going to win the game. However, between a mix of bad luck and the Scotland skip, in particular, coming onto an excellent game, they ended up losing it.
They finished 3rd in their group.
In the fours, Graham Shoots, Craig Lewis, Graham Cathcart and Pete Bonsor experienced misery in their first game against France. Having start off well and built a 6 good lead, they unexpectedly ended up losing by 3 shots. Once again that meant they had to beat at least one of the top two seeds – Ireland and Scotland – to qualify.
The way they were playing, they looked like they could do exactly that and indeed, it proved to be the case when, in their second game, they took on and beat Ireland by one shot. Thereafter, they only lost one other game, which was against Scotland. With results not going in their favour elsewhere, they finished in third place, just one point behind Ireland. If they had avoided the totally winnable game against France, they would have qualified.
In the womens disciplines –
Carol Broomfield played in the singles and got off to a flying start winning 2 of her first 3 games, losing to England. Carol was playing well and was in with a shout of doing very well in her section. Unfortunately, come day 2 Carol started suffering from the same illness that had blighted some of the other squad members and had to struggle through the second day.
Despite this Carol still managed to give a very good account of herself. Unfortunately, she could not fulfil her third-day fixture, she was so unwell.
Carol finished 6th in her group.
In the pairs, triples and fours, unfortunately, with Lisa, Carol, Debbie all suffering from illness, the teams struggled badly and couldn’t fulfil their potential, despite Gillian coming in to substitute for various players at different times. To be honest some of the players really struggled with the playing conditions, despite their very best efforts to do so. It certainly was not down to the lack of effort.
In the pairs, the women finished 4th, 6th in the triples and fours.
In the team event out of 17 countries, the men finished a very creditable 5th behind Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales and Israel. The women finished in 11th position. Overall, Spain finished 9th.
Once again, grass proved to be a big problem for Spain. Illness once again impinged on the squad and didn’t make things any easier. The men did very well and could have qualified in at least 2 of the disciplines. That aside, the players could not be faulted for their efforts. They can proud of their efforts. A lot of experience was gained at the championships, which will serve Spain well in the future. Some lessons were also learned that will also assist in the future.
It is now onwards and upwards. Next year, in April, Spain will be entering a new mixed pairs tournament which Spain will be hosting in Tenerife and the World Indoors Championships in Warilla. Then there is the World Championships being held in August in the Gold Coast, Australia. That is over, and above the normal test matches Spain will be involved in.
I would like to thank the players who played in the Europeans for their efforts and support. I would also like to thank Bob Donelly, for the support, assistance and advice he has given to me personally and the squad in general.
Between now and then, I will be holding training sessions for the squad. These training sessions also double as trials for the international squad. I would encourage and invite anyone who wishes to be considered for the squad to contact me – email@example.com