Weir on the way to Potters, again
It’s a long road from bonny Scotland to Hopton-on-Sea for the World Indoor Championships, but Darren Weir is becoming very accustomed to the 408-mile, eight-hour journey as this will be the fourth consecutive time that he’s featured on the world stage at Potters. John Rednall speaks to Darren Weir.
JR: You have qualified for the World indoor Bowls Championships at Potters in two events. Tell us about the qualifying rounds and how it feels to have got there this time?
DW: This is the second year in a row I have managed to qualify in both the Open Singles and Under 25 singles for the World Indoor Championships and it’s certainly not a feat that I take for granted as the PBA qualifiers are getting harder and harder each year and the standard of players entering the qualifiers has been as high as it’s ever been.
I qualified for the open singles at Carlisle IBC in September and the Under 25 singles at West Lothian IBC in November. Both qualifiers were extremely long days as I had to play six straight knockout matches against quality opposition to qualify. At Carlisle, my first round match was at 10am in the morning with the final not finishing until after midnight, so the qualifiers can definitely be a physical and mental test at times but worthwhile when you get the right result.
JR: Last year, the final of the open singles was contested for the first time by two qualifiers. Could this happen again in 2024 and could you be one of them?
DW: It was an amazing achievement for both Jason Banks and Jamie Walker to reach the world indoor singles final against each other. It probably went a bit under the radar in terms of how tough an achievement that actually is but as I regularly play in the PBA qualifiers I can fully appreciate and respect the difficulty of what both players achieved. They had probably both won 11 or 12 straight knockout matches against a high calibre of opposition to get to the final so they both fully deserved to be there. I’m not sure it will happen again as soon as 2024 as I believe it was the first time two qualifiers have played the final against each other in the history of the World Indoor Bowls Championships, which shows just how difficult it is to happen. However, I’m sure it will happen again at some point in the future especially with the quality of qualifiers coming through these days.
JR: I see you are scheduled to play against Darren Burnett in the singles. How do you feel about this all-Scottish tie?
What do you know of Darren and will you have a tactical game plan?
DW: I have been fortunate enough to compete with and against Darren on a few occasions and he’s undoubtedly one of the best players in the world. His CV speaks for itself as he’s won all the major titles there are to win in both the indoor and outdoor game. For me, he’s probably the best player in the world when it comes to playing a running bowl or drive, but his drawing is also top class as you don’t win any major titles if you don’t have a reliable drawing game. I know I will be the underdog when I face Darren at Potters but I’m looking forward to the challenge. I know if I play to my potential, I am more than capable of causing an upset but it’s all about performing on the day and you need a bit of Lady Luck to go in your favour too. Hopefully we both play well and put on a good contest for the spectators in the arena and viewers at home.
JR: And surely you will be keen to eventually cement an automatic place for yourself rather than having to qualify?
DW: I’m especially to looking forward to the open singles as I have future aspirations of breaking into the top 16. Players such as Jason Banks, Jamie Walker and Wayne Willgress have all managed to break into the top 16 and do well in recent years so it gives me confidence that it’s possible.
JR: How are your preparations going for Potters? Do you have practise routines all the year round? Do you believe that you could be the next Scot to win the title?
DW: So far, my preparations for Potters have been going well. I have been practising two or three times a week to keep my match sharpness there. Our club ties have recently begun at Ardrossan IBC so that has given me plenty of competitive games in November and December in the lead up to the championships. The challenge with Potters has always been it’s always right at the beginning of January and a lot of indoor clubs shut down over the Christmas and New Year period, meaning it’s difficult to get time on the carpet. Having said that, it’s nice to get a break and spend time with family as our indoor season in Scotland is hectic with events taking place almost every weekend between September and April.
JR: There’s something magical about the world championships at Potters. What makes them so special in your opinion?
DW: For me is the history and prestige of the venue. I believe Potters first hosted the World Indoor Championships in 1999 so as a player, it’s exciting to follow in the footsteps of so many amazing players that have competed there over the years. I also like the solo rink set-up as the crowd are close to the action and all eyes are on the one match taking place. It’s also one of the very few opportunities that players get to compete on live BBC television which is vital for the growth of our sport.
JR: And of course, you are following hot in the footsteps of true Scottish legends, such as Alex Marshall, Paul Foster, Darren Burnett, Stewart Anderson, David Gourlay, Willie Wood and Richard Corsie, to name a few. What is the secret of Scotland’s success in Commonwealth and world events?
DW: I don’t think there’s any secret behind Scotland’s success at Commonwealth and World events in bowls. It’s like any sport in that you need to have natural talent and work extremely hard and dedicate yourself to develop that talent. As a young and up and coming player, it definitely is inspiring to have so many past and present greats from Scotland that have progressed through the pathway that I am
WHERE IT ALL BEGAN
JR: Talking of young and up-and-coming, you told me that you started bowling when you were just seven years of age. How did that come about?
DW: Yes, I first got involved in bowls in 2007 when I was at my local outdoor club, Prestwick Bowling Club. My dad had been a member of the club for over 20 years and my older brother, Andrew, had already joined the junior section at that time. I was always down at the club watching them compete, so I guess it was only a matter of time before I got involved myself.
After completing my first outdoor season in 2007, I then joined my local indoor club, Prestwick that winter. Again, my brother was already part of the junior section, so I was keen to get involved with other youngsters of a similar age and receive coaching to develop my skills. We were lucky at Prestwick IBC to have two former World Indoor Singles champions in David Gourlay MBE and Paul Foster MBE as members. I was fortunate enough to compete with and against David and Paul from a young age and learn a lot, from the way they play the game and conduct themselves on
My earliest memories are winning the junior championship at Prestwick BC as a 10-year-old in 2009 in only my third full season. It was memorable as up until that point I hadn’t beaten my brother in a competitive match as he was older and more experienced than me at that stage .
JR: You clearly love the sport, Darren, and your job is in bowls, working for Bowls Scotland as communications officer. Is it your dream job? What are your day-to-day roles?
DW: I began my role as communications officer with Bowls Scotland in May 2019, I had just finished my degree in sports journalism at the University of the West of Scotland and the opportunity arose to begin working with the National Governing Body. It seemed like a logical step to take to be able to combine my professional career and work in the sport that I am passionate about.
I love my job as no two days are the same and I have been fortunate to work with and meet some amazing people in the sports industry over the last four years. There is very much a family feel amongst the staff team at Bowls Scotland as we are a small but very hard working and dedicated team.
My day-to-day jobs include managing our website and social media channels, liaising with our board directors, staff, district co-ordinators, county secretaries and club secretaries to ensure they are aware of the latest developments in Scottish bowls. When we are also hosting or competing in events it is my role to link with both the local and national media to ensure our sport receives the coverage
JR: You are obviously passionate about the sport. How do you hope to contribute to the development of the sport in Scotland?
DW: There are 50,000 people that play bowls in Scotland but linking with the media gives us the opportunity to reach out to the five million plus people in Scotland that aren’t bowlers. It’s my job to get the key messages out there about the benefits bowls can provide to try and attract new people into our sport. I believe the COVID-19 pandemic has been a big wake up call for clubs to open their doors and welcome in their local community. That’s the true beauty of our sport that it can be played by people of all ages and abilities.
JR: Well, it’s great to know that you love the sport, on and off the green. Good luck at Potters. Thanks for talking to us.
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