JASON REFLECTS ON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
Scotland’s Jason Banks certainly showed no fear at the World Indoor Bowls Championships earlier this year where he narrowly missed out on securing the world crown in a tremendous battle with England’s Jamie Walker. Bowls International caught up with Jason to reflect on his incredible showing at Potters Resort.
As time has passed, I’ve been reflecting more positively on it,” admits the 26-year-old.
“Initially right after the final I was really quite down and disappointed that I didn’t quitemake it but reflecting back on it now I’m more positive on what I managed to achieve.”
Jason’s route to the final was incredible for anyone, let alone a qualifier.
A preliminary round victory at the Hopton-on-Sea venue over fellow Scottish qualifier Darren Weir was followed by wins over seeded players Simon Skelton, defending champion and world number one Les Gillett, Jason Greenslade and two-time champion Mark Dawes to set up the final clash with Walker.
“The final was a harder thing to prepare for mentally as in the other games I had always been the underdog so wasn’t expected to win any of those games.
“With the final being between us both as qualifiers either of us could win it I guess.”
Despite knowing Walker well due to both being members of their respective Under 25 international teams at the same time, it was the first time that they had played against each other in a singles match.
“We’ve played against each other in a few things before, so we know each other pretty well.”
Jason was laying the shot bowl on the final end of the first set, before Walker played with weight and successfully removed the bowl despite catching a short bowl ahead of reaching the intended target.
“When Jamie flicked my short bowl I thought he was then going to miss my shot bowl, but he got the thinnest of edges to still take out the shot bowl.
“It was kind of teasing with me. I thought once he caught the front bowl I was going to win the set, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be.
“I think it would have been a steal if I did win the first set though as Jamie came out the traps well and was probably the better player in that set so it would have been unfair on Jamie if he did lose that set.”
Asked whether there was ever a point when he believed he could go on to win the championship, Jason said: “I don’t know really.
“I think it just built up slowly. Initially I wasn’t thinking about that at all, but obviously the closer you got I suppose it harder to not think ahead.
“I think there were nerves every game – just the thought of playing at the world championships was enough to have nerves, but I was a wee bit more nervous for the final.”
Jason had previously played three times on the portable rink at Potters Resort, but had failed to win any of those matches.
A tiebreak defeat to Australia’s Ellen Ryan in the Under 25 singles in 2017 was followed by a debut in the main open singles event in 2021. Jason was again defeated on a tiebreak, this time against Julie Forrest, before suffering an 8-5, 9-4 defeat in the open pairs alongside Connor Milne to eventual champions Jamie Chestney and Mark Dawes.
“I’d never won a match on the portable rink before, so it was good to get my first win on the rink,” he said reflecting on his 8-3, 9-9 victory over Darren Weir.
“Although I didn’t win any of those matches, I think the experience certainly helped me going there this year and knowing what to expect.
“We’ve played quite a lot against each other in different competitions. I think we both knew it was going to be a close game.”
Victory over Weir meant that Jason was faced with 2019 runner-up Simon Skelton in the first round.
“That was one of my better games,” admitted Jason.
“I was getting in well with my first two bowls which made my life easier and his much harder, so I was pleased to win that one.
“I definitely think the prelim helped as rather than playing a seed who knows the rink well for my first game it was nice to get a game against another qualifier before the first round.
“Although it meant that I had to play an extra game, it probably worked to my advantage. It was unfortunate for Darren to win through in the qualifier and not make the first round.”
Defending champion Les Gillett was the next man standing in Jason’s way,
“Everyone was expecting Les to beat someone like me, but I was really looking forward to the challenge as I know how good Les is and how well he plays on the rink.
“I really enjoyed the challenge of playing against him on that stage.”
The quarter-final pitted Jason against Jason Greenslade, who had defeated American Neil Furman and local hope Mervyn King to reach the last eight.
“It was really hard to keep my concentration on the second to last end when Jason was getting distracted by different things and people coughing,” admits Jason.
“It was hard for me because there was so long between my first and second bowl that it was hard to keep my concentration because of the fuss that was going on, but I was trying really hard to focus on the bowls and forget about it.
“I played a couple of poor bowls after it, but thankfully I played a really good end the next end so I was really pleased to get through that challenge against him.
“I was happy with the way I dealt with it, but it could have been a difficult way to have lost out if it affected the outcome in the end but thankfully it didn’t.”
The semi-final set up a battle with two-time champ Mark Dawes. Dawes took the opening set, the first time that Banks had lost a set during the championships, before the young Scot battled back well to win on the tiebreak.
“Everyone knows how good Mark is and similar to the match against Les I was looking forward to the challenge with him,” said Jason.
“He was playing really well for a lot of the game, so I was really pleased to keep with him for the majority of that.
“I got a lot of satisfaction coming through that game after losing the first set. It really could have gone either way – I probably got my fair share of luck and the rub of the green in that game.”
Jason was supported at Hopton-on-Sea by his parents Colin and Angela, who he accepts were a big aid throughout the competition.
“They were a really big help as both on and off the green they were organising my food and drink, making sure I had water and juice when I was playing and my dad was carrying my bowls to and from the green so it just made my life a whole lot easier for the duration.
“The schedule was quite nice for me because I was playing a game then off the next day, so it was quite a consistent sort of schedule for me. The times that I was playing was quite consistent too, so that was easier to prepare for.
“I quite liked booking a couple of slots during the day for practise. When I had to change to green bowls I did have a roll-up late at night and into the early hours of the morning so that I was used to those bowls.
“I played a lot of snooker on my time off and went for a swim on a few days.”
It wasn’t just support at the venue for Banks, a keen Aberdeen FC supporter, with The Drouthy Lairdin Inverurie swapping 90 minutes of football action for Banks’ clash with Walker.
“They put the bowls on the big screen rather than the football so that was a bit of a change for the regulars!”
In December, Banks was part of a wildcard trio, including sister Carla, who competed together at the Ultimate Bowls Championships in the southern hemisphere.
“When I played in the UBC in Australia in December there was quite a few different rules, but they had the 30 second shot clock so that kind of helped me ahead of Potters,” said Jason.
“Up until then I hadn’t played much with a shot clock, so when I came back and played at Potters with the shot clock it wasn’t as big of a deal as I’d played lots of matches recently with it in Australia.
“If it wasn’t for the shot clock I would normally take a lot longer to play. I would probably study things a lot more, but because of the time you just have to make your decision and go with that.”
Jason’s route to Potters, via a qualifying event at Abbeyview IBC, included a victory over his father, Colin at the quarter-final stage.
“It’s a good relationship,” admitted Jason of his bond with father.
“I don’t think we enjoy coming up against each other – it’s quite hard trying to play to your full ability.
“It helps having others in your family take an interest in what we’re all doing, so I guess it does help and we can talk about things.”
In addition to his dad, Jason’s introduction to the sport started with his grandparents, Bruce and Phyllis Middleton, in Inverurie.
“I started out playing a short mat version of bowls at my outdoor bowling club which taught me the basic principles of bowls before moving onto full length.
“They just roll the mats out in the clubhouse. The rules are different to normal short mat, but the basics are the same.”
So, what’s next for the talented Scot? His performances at the world championships have catapulted him to 16th on the World Bowls Tour’s ranking list, something that Jason admits to have been in the back of his mind.
“My aim was to try to make it into the top 16 and I recently found out that it is confirmed for next year that I’m in the top 16 so I’m really happy with that.
“Another thing that I’d like to say that I’ve done is to play in the Commonwealth Games at some point. It might never happen but it’s certainly something that I’d like to do.”
In recognition of his efforts at Potters, Jason was presented with an engraved decanter, a glass trophy in recognition of reaching the final, and was made an honorary life member at Garioch IBC.