BCGBA Senior Merit – can it be back to back titles for Darren?

For Darren Plenderleith the last twelve months must have gone over so quickly. To be crowned BCGBA Senior Merit champion in your own county, in front of your own family, friends and supporters, is going to be a memory long to cherish.

This young man proved too good for everyone he faced at the tricky Griff and Coton Club in Nuneaton. On Saturday at the Grange Sports and Social Club in Warrington he tries to do it all again

The question that so many are asking though is can he repeat last year’s success and retain the crown? He has a difficult draw but so does everyone else. There are so many great players in the draw but he stands alongside them. The winner will have to put in some fantastic performances, he did last year and not just in the Senior Merit. He could do it again and become the first back to back winner since Andy Spragg in 2006 & 2007.

Darren Plenderleith with Phil Brown 2017 BCGBA President

“The all England means everything to me. I personally think it’s the best Comp on the bowling diary and also the hardest to win. This Comp, as I quoted when I won it, means the world to me. I lost my dad 8 years ago to cancer he used to go to every one.

Year after year whether I was in it or not. When I was a kid he stated “son, one year you’ll be here, you will win it and can’t wait to watch you play” unfortunately he never saw that happen but I know he was watching down on me and watching every bowl I sent shouting me along, so that’s why this Comp means so much and I will be trying my heart out again this year”.

Darren Plenderleith  2017 BCGBA Senior Merit Champion

As good a year it has been for Darren it has been a turbulent year for the organisers, the BCGBA, the crown green bowls national governing body.

An announcement at the start of the year that the long-serving Chief Executive Officer, John Crowther, was to retire was completely unexpected and in June the Staffordshire County Secretary, Mark Bircumshaw, was appointed as interim Chief Executive. It’s probably fair to say he had to hit the ground running as he took over the leadership of the association.

BCGBA Interim CEO – Mark Bircumshaw

John Crowther has a wealth of experience and is helping out where needed and has been very supportive in enabling a smooth handover and it would be remiss of me if we did not thank him for all the years of service to the Association.

My thanks also to Dales Sports and Total Insignia for their kind support of this event.

This is my second event, after the Veterans merit, and we are all looking forward to it, it is one of the days & one of the competitions not to miss”.

Mark Bircumshaw – BCGBA Interim Chief Executive Officer

Mark, along with BCGBA President Keith Andrews, has been liaising with the Grange Club in Warrington to make sure the event goes as well as possible. They have worked tirelessly to make sure the venue is primed and ready to welcome hundreds of crown green bowls supporters to watch sixty-four of the best players this game has to offer.

Keith Andrews – BCGBA President 2018

“It is a huge honour and privilege to welcome some of the very best players we have to Lancashire for the highlight of the bowls year. We all hope they, and the spectators, have a fantastic day and my thanks to the Grange Club for all the help they have given us.

Lancashire has an unrivalled history in the game and we hope the event on Saturday will be remembered alongside all the fantastic days this county has already given the game of crown green bowls”.

Keith Andrews – 2018 BCGBA President

On the day the venue will look a little different from what its members know so well. Scaffolding and a stand erected and access to the site from across the adjacent football pitch (mind the steps leading to the pitch) to turn the venue from one of the best clubs in Lancashire to a venue ready to host the conclusion of a National competition. Disabled access only is through the club car park.

Admission on the day is £10 and a further £10 gets a seat to watch the action. The latter stages will be broadcast once again by Globegig Media. The programme can be accessed through the BCGBA website or by clicking here

“We were delighted to be asked to continue broadcasting the events on behalf of the BCGBA. Over the years we have seen the viewing figures go from strength to strength, with each year exceeding the last. We are committed to growing the sport nationally and internationally by broadcasting in the most professional way possible.”.

Steve Sharples – Globegig Media

As well as last year’s winner the sixty-four includes last year’s runner-up, Ross Meese, local hero Tommy Johnstone, young stars who are likely at the top of the betting in Wayne Ditchfield and Callum Wraight and multiple national competition winners John Bailey and Simon Coupe. It will be a brave punter to pick a winner and there will definitely be a lot of players backed by the boisterous crowd.

The full draw is:

1. Gerald Merry (Cheshire) v 2. Daniel Varcoe (Cumbria)
3. Mick Andrews (Merseyside) v 4. Craig Podmore (Potteries)
5. John Kennish (IOM) v 6.  Craig Richardson (Wales)
7. Wayne Ditchfield (North Lancs & Fylde) v 8. Andrew Sykes (Yorkshire)
9. John Greenhalgh (Yorkshire) v 10. Dougan Tubey (Derbyshire)
11. Neil Bithell (Lancashire) v 12. Wayne Phillips (Shropshire)
13. Chris Heyes (Gtr Manchester) v 14. John Bailey (Wales)
15. Steve Pratt (North Midlands) v 16. Elliot McGuinness (W&W)
17. Neale Charlton (Wales) v 18. Tom Eccles (Gtr Manchester)
19. Lee Heaton (North Lancs & Fylde) v 20. Carl Fielding (W&W)
21. Tommy Johnstone (Cheshire) v 22. Ryan Clark (South Yorkshire)
23. Peter Clark (Yorkshire) v 24. Paul Lamb (North Midlands)
25. David East (Staffordshire) v 26. Neil Desmond (Derbyshire)
27. John Durrands (Lancashire) v 28. Gareth Gwilliam (Gtr Manchester)
29. John Worsnop (Yorkshire) v 30. Spencer Clark (Shropshire)
31. Peter Dunkley (W&W) v 32. Darren Plenderleith (North Midlands)
33. James Seville (W&W) v 34. Nick Wyer (Staffordshire)
35. Chris Mordue (Yorkshire) v 36. Callum Wraight (Shropshire)
37. Nigel Illiff (Derbyshire) v 38. Karl Shanks (North Midlands)
39. Andrew Wightman (Lancashire) v 40. Andy Raymond (Gtr Manchester)
41. Dean Ferris (Gtr Manchester) v 42. Mike Chamberlain (Wales)
43. Craig Gant (Yorkshire) v 44. George Chapman (North Midlands)
45. John Gurney (Cheshire) v 46. Ross Dunkley (W&W)
47. Ross Meese (South Yorkshire) v 48. Simon Coupe (North Lancs & Fylde)
49. Glenn McCafferty (Yorkshire) v 50. Ben Stapleton (Gtr Manchester)
51. Mark Blackmore (North Midlands) v 52. Steve Freer (W&W)
53. Ed Furniss (Derbyshire) v 54. Ian Inman (Lancashire)
55. Tony Rhodes (Shropshire) v 56. Chris Ward (Staffordshire)
57. Danny Barwise (Merseyside) v 58. Connor Chamberlain (Derbyshire)
59. Danny Rogers (Cumbria) v 60. Philip Holroyd (Yorkshire)
61. Peter Hulse jnr (Potteries) v 62. Colin Kelly (IOM)
63. Ashley Wellings (Shropshire) v 64. Mathew Worden (Wales)

The BCGBA Senior Merit, sponsored by Dales Sports and Total Insignia Ltd, will be held on Saturday 28th July at the Grange Sports and Social Club, Grange Avenue, Warrington WA4 1QH. It will start at 10:00am.

Steve Davies

Throughout his bowling career Steve has always supported the admin side of the game. As a club secretary, association secretary, county delegate on the BCGBA (National Governing Body) Management Committee, Merseyside champion in 2002 and Merseyside County President (2014-15) Steve has always been keen to promote the game especially through the broadcast of the game on TV or Internet. Steve set up the LIVE BOWLS YouTube channel and, through the LDBA, runs national competitions. Seeing an avenue to report and promote the game Steve set up the Bowls Observer on-line magazine after consulting with respected figures in the game and journalism.