Countdown to Potters World Bowls

IN less than a week, 75 of the world's top professional indoor bowlers will descend on a tiny village off the coast near Great Yarmouth for the most prestigious event in International bowls: The Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls Championships.

IN less than a week, 75 of the world's top professional indoor bowlers will descend on a tiny village off the coast near Great Yarmouth for the most prestigious event in International bowls: The Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls Championships.

Mervyn King, former world Singles Champion and defending Pairs Champion with Australian Kelvin Kerkow, says, with a 1000-plus spectator crowd for every match, at Potters in Hopton on Sea there is nowhere to hide.

Whilst talented players will be flying in from as far afield as New Zealand, Hong Kong, the USA and Israel, the East Anglian contingent is, once again, extremely strong.

We ask two bowls stars, how they're feeling about the forthcoming 'festival of bowls':

The world number two ranked player is Mark Royal from Stowmarket. Mark narrowly missed out on the top spot, being only one point behind the world number one, Scotland's Alex Marshall MBE. Mark's last big win was the Welsh Masters in 2008 and he says his high ranking is all down to consistency.

“Last season I managed to reach a good level in all the key tournaments which secured my ranking. But whilst I'm proud of this, like most players, I'd rather be World Champion than world number one,” says Mark. “I reached the quarter finals of the Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls last year and I'm hoping to go further in 2010.”

Most Read

2009 has been a big year for Mark, who'll be celebrating his 35th birthday during the Championships. After being made redundant a year ago, he has set up his dream business. Mark Royal Bowls is a specialist bowls store in the centre of Stowmarket.

“I'm lucky because I get to combine my work with my sport and spend virtually all my time either playing, or talking about, bowls. I'm getting customers from all over East Anglia and I'm delighted with how business is going,” Mark says. “Whilst the lead up to Christmas has been all about work, once 25th of December is here, I'll be focusing 100% on the World Indoor Bowls.”

As well as competing in the Open Singles, Mark is taking part in the World Pairs with Simon Skelton (currently ranked number 14 in the world) and in the Mixed Pairs with Dee McSparran, a qualifier from the USA who is also one of only two women competing in the Open Singles. Mark and Dee will meet Mervyn King and Alison Merrien in the first round of Mixed Pairs; a local derby not to be missed!

Mark's first match in the Open Singles competition will either be against either world number 19 Robert Chisholm or 17 year old qualifier Jarred Breen. Who does he think will win and be up against him? “Although Robert is the reigning Welsh International Open Champion it could be anyone's game as, at this level, there are no real underdogs in bowls.” So is there anyone Mark is really looking out for at the tournament? In his words; “Everybody's dangerous!”

Mervyn King, from Fakenham, is ranked number eight in the world. He's on form for January having won the World Matchplay at Sheffield earlier this year (a competition between the world's top eight players) and reaching the semi-finals of the Scottish International in November.

“I'm happy with how I've been playing but you can never rest on your laurels; you have to fight for you position,” says Mervyn. “Anyone who has reached the top 20 has fought hard to get there and so deserves their place. However there are some hungry young players heading for the World Bowls, desperate to secure the points they need to steal away one of those top spots. None of the matches will be easy to predict - at an event like the Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls, the level of play is so high that it's anyone's competition. I'm looking forward to Potters; it's the best venue on the World Bowls Tour as you're virtually guaranteed a thousand plus crowd. Having that number of spectators brings out the best in players but it also means there is nowhere to hide.”

Mark and Mervyn will be keeping a close eye on two East Anglian 'rising stars'. Nick Brett from Peterborough is currently world number 20 and so hoping to use his Tourcard qualifying place to move up into the top 16 so he is guaranteed a place in all WBT events next season. And Acle's Tim Stone, who qualified for all the WBT events this season, is also aiming to climb the rankings ladder and establish himself as one of the UK's top bowlers.

Brian Potter, chairman of Potters Leisure Resort, and the man responsible for turning Hopton-on-Sea into a mecca for bowls, says; “This year's tournament is set to be more exciting than ever before as the BBC has extended its live coverage, further cementing the Potters Holidays World Indoor Bowls Championships' position as one of the UK's key sporting events. The fact that we have such a talented local contingent makes the event even more special, particularly for our local audience who can enjoy world class sporting action on their doorstep.”

Day tickets for the event start at just �5 and can be ordered by calling 0845 437 9890. Short breaks are also available during the competition starting at only �129 per person for a two night break including accommodation, a full schedule of activities and entertainment, three meals per full day of your stay and, most importantly, tickets for the relevant days of the World Indoor Bowls Tournament.