WHEN I LOOK BACK on my sporting career, playing schoolboy
soccer for Barry Town, Glamorgan, Wales, I remember one game in particular when
I was chosen as first reserve against Swansea. One of the Barry team was not
able to play and I looked forward to the game. For some reason I was not allowed
to play. My father accompanied me and he was most upset and made the fact known.
I was bitterly disappointed.
Prior to enlisting in the Royal Air Force, I joined the Air
Training Corp. Our team played Army teams in the Glamorgan area with a lot of
success. I enlisted in the RAF in 1942, and after training as an aircraft
technician, I was posted to Rhodesia in March 1943 in the Empire Air Training
Scheme. I played soccer for the Aircraft Repair Depot ‘A’ team. Within the ranks
of the RAF there were a number of international-class soccer players. I returned
to England, being demobbed from the RAF, being given an early Class B release on
enlisting in the Rhodesia British South Africa Police Force, at Rhodesia House,
London – my term of engagement for three years. There were 96 recruits from
every branch of the Forces and Merchant Navy. I was captain of the British South
Africa Police (BSAP) soccer team during my tour of duty. The BSAP team won the
Challenge, Charity and League Cups.
I was selected to play for Rhodesia in 1948. The team was
selected from Southern Rhodesia, Northern Rhodesia and Nyasaland (now Zimbabwe),
Zambia and Malawi. The standard of soccer was very high – many ex-servicemen
making the three territories their home. On completion of my three years with
the BSAP I enlisted in the Rhodesian Air Force. I trained and captained the Air
Force soccer team, which later joined forces with the Rhodesian Army, and became
the Garrison soccer team, of which I was captain. I also captained a team
consisting of Army, Air Force and police, which played the rest, and it was a
great honour. Mr Bob Ross, who owned a jeweller’s shop in Salisbury (now Harare)
mentioned words to me which I thought were very flattering: “O’Brien, you were a
grand soccer player, but you are a much better bowler.”
The highlights of my bowls career are enumerated in this
book. I have been a South African and an Australian National Bowling Association
umpire, covering the years 1962 to 2006, when, owing to ill health, I
relinquished my umpiring role. I have been an active lawn bowls coach from 1962,
and have been a Level 2 coach since 1999 and accredited to 2012, and have had
the distinction of having played in every discipline in every position at
international level. A bowler who is physically unable to be an umpire could
still be a ‘Bowls Law Umpire’, able to adjudicate on problems arising with the
When playing sport, I was away from home on many occasions.
I owe my wife, Maria, to whom I was married to for 68 years, a great debt of
gratitude, looking after our home and four wonderful children. I think there
were times when I have been a successful bowler, but also very selfish. I would
like to pay tribute to my friend, John Payne, for his skill and patience in
editing the book Y-B-LONELY?
- part sample
THIS COACHING BOOK is mainly for the new bowler to learn
the basics of the wonderful game of bowls.
The delivery, if physically possible, is a smooth rhythmic
action, which will only be achieved with help from the coach and dedicated
For the bowler with a natural aptitude, a desire to play
competitive bowls at a higher level will always be on that person’s mind.
Success at the highest level is very demanding, both physically and mentally.
Bowlers must embrace these facts. Many bowlers playing at a reasonably high
level do not pay enough attention to their fitness and weight. The terminology
that often goes through my mind and categorises them is “The male bowlers belong
to the BTBBBs – Below the Belly Belt Brigade”. It is as if a big belly is a
badge of honour; but many still play very good bowls.
With many bowlers, alcohol is a problem. In Rhodesia and
South Africa, where I played bowls at the highest level, as well as club and
social bowls, no bowler would walk off the green and purchase alcohol while play
was in progress. The bowler who flouted this unwritten law could be banned from
bowls for a year. Boozing and bowling should not be mixed. To do so is a
negative factor and is not being a good team member.
The actual release of the bowl is the delivery action. This
poses problems for many bowlers. The locking of the wrist is a vital action to
be taken when delivering a bowl. To ensure that the bowl is released smoothly is
an important component of the delivery. Some bowlers with good delivery actions,
for some reasons unknown, momentarily hang onto the bowl just at the point of
release, causing a bad delivery, and in most cases, a short bowl.
When the atmosphere is damp, the bowl in the hand feels
sticky, and a smooth release can be a problem. Trying to dry the bowl is
difficult because the entire atmosphere is damp.
Technique is very important. A positive release of the bowl
in the delivery action is a vital component of a bowler’s technique. To obtain a
positive, clean and smooth release in the delivery, I suggest the following
action in damp moist conditions:
At the moment of the release, the fingers of the delivery
hand are opened wide, spreading the fingers as far apart as possible. The
technique is a hallmark of the delivery action of Kelvin Kerkow!
It is a fact that we all sometimes feel lonely. A person
can be lonely in a crowd. Even in the world of sport human companionship is not
always available and periods of loneliness can be experienced. There are times,
when alone, that you would like a friend to call around. We cannot rule out the
fact that sometimes we will be lonely. Playing sport can be a very good way to
escape loneliness to some extent. Lawn bowls is an excellent sport to
interrelate with people.
There is no need to be a super-fit athlete, as the sport of
lawn bowls requires a reasonable standard of fitness. It is a fact that really
true friends are not easily made, and in life if we can count all our real
friends on the fingers of one hand, we can say we are truly blessed. To
interrelate with people when playing bowls is a wonderful way to pass the time
when playing a sport that is enjoyable. Y-B-LONELY when playing bowls could be
one way in which loneliness can be eliminated. I contend that the underlying
reason why we all play bowls is that we are lonely and in need of human