Stanley's dream now is to go national

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By Western Daily Press | Wednesday, May 22, 2013, 05:00

A Portishead man's outstanding contribution to bowls was recognised by the national governing body, who bestowed on him the Life Membership of the English Indoor Bowling Association at the EIBA's AGM in Melton Mowbray.

Mike Stanley, a retired teacher, gave up playing bowls some years ago, but has been the secretary of the Wessex League since it was formed in 1982.

"The league has grown every year, and is now the biggest and most successful league of its kind in the country, if not the world," Stanley said. "At the beginning it was known as the Sun Life Wessex League, but is now sponsored by Warner Leisure Hotels."

Life Membership of the EIBA is normally reserved for past presidents – or exceptional players like David Bryant – so Stanley, who used to teach at Gordano School, was overwhelmed to receive the greatest honour in the sport last Saturday.

"I was surprised and flattered, but regard it primarily as recognition for the League," said Stanley. "We have 48 clubs at present, spread across 14 counties, and we are still growing. I have a dream that one day we might go national."

The Certificate of Life Membership was presented to Stanley by EIBA Chairman Dave Murley, BEM, who now lives in Rugby, but who was a tower of strength at the Westlecot club in Swindon for many years, and is, coincidentally, also Chairman of the Wessex League.

Murley said, "Mike was a very worthy candidate for the award for the time and effort that he has put in over more than 30 years. He runs the league efficiently, and, although he is known for being very strict in applying the rules, he is always scrupulously fair.

"I applaud and support his ambition," Murley added. "But, if the League is to go national, it needs to expand eastwards."

The last word belongs to Stanley, is disappointed that interest in the League seems to be waning in the West. "The League was born here, but, despite the advances made elsewhere, many clubs in Somerset and Devon have dropped out," he says. "The latest club to opt out is Clevedon," he reports. "That's a real shame, and I can't really understand it. We would love to see clubs from the two counties – and Cornwall – come back in and share in the success we are experiencing."

A feisty Somerset octet kept pace with a star-studded Devon team, who enjoyed home advantage in the first round of the national men's under 25 inter-county championship at Feniton last Sunday.

Two of Devon's eight players have represented England, and another five are international trialists. In the Somerset team only Louis Ridout has attracted the attention of the national selectors.

Reigning champions Devon, who have high hopes of lifting the White Rose Bowl for the fourth time in five years, led 10-7 after five ends, and were still only three shots ahead at the halfway stage.

Somerset were in with a shout with only two ends to play, when they trailed, 37-41.

Ridout's rink held Sam Tolchard's quartet to a 19-19 draw, and Aaron Poolman's rink did well to keep their defeat to a modest nine shots – but Devon got home, 46-37.

Wiltshire, who came close to winning the Middleton Cup last August, set out on the title trail against Gloucestershire at Barnwood on Saturday, June 1– with a new-look team.

Not one rink survives intact from the final against Norfolk, and there are two entirely 'new' rinks on show – but it is not the case of team manager Dave Snell wielding the axe.

Barry Sictorness has retired from Middleton Cup bowls, Snell's own son Michael is now living abroad, and Mike Richards has work commitments – so at least three of the changes were enforced.

Meanwhile, it is no surprise to see World Bowls bronze medallist Graham Shadwell back in the side, after Wiltshire were seriously handicapped in the semi-final and final last year, because Shadwell was otherwise engaged, competing in (and winning) the mixed pairs.

This absurd scheduling by Bowls England's tournament directors led observers to speculate that, if 'Shadders' had been available, Wiltshire might have pulled off a notable triumph. Snell was also delighted to welcome Steve Wiltshire, who has previously turned out for Gloucestershire and Somerset, to the fold, and he will now make his debut for the county that bears his name.

James Titcombe and Paul Stokes, who played at Worthing last year, have been axed, and Paul Macdonald will occupy the reserve bench, making room for the inclusion of Billy McCay, Gary Jackson and Kyle Anderson.

Admitting that picking the side was a bit of a headache, Snell said: "Everyone played so well at the trial at Wootton Bassett on Sunday that it was extremely difficult – but the selectors are confident we can get off to a good start with a strong well-balanced side."

Gloucestershire racked up a heartening win over Oxfordshire in their Middleton Cup trial last Saturday, and will be announcing their team to meet Wiltshire this weekend.

In Somerset, team manager Don Fowkes will run his eye over his county's top players at Clevedon on June 2, before naming his team to meet Devon six days later.

Short mat bowls teams from Somerset (Kingscliffe) and Gloucestershire (Gloster Knights) won the Open Fours and Aussie Pairs Plate titles respectively at the popular Dorset Open last week – but most of the silverware went to teams from further afield.

"It was a cracking weekend at the Dorset Bowls Resort," said organiser Robert Martin. "Essex, East Sussex, Norfolk and the West Midlands lined up in the semi-finals of the Aussie Pairs, while the semi- finalists in the fours included players from Wales, Norfolk, West Sussex and Cheshire."

Essex stars Dom Reed and Jack Shephard defeated Paul Seaman and Andy Beard, from East Sussex in the pairs final, while Welsh internationals Chris Martin, Sam Harvey, Tom Jones and Luke Haddon beat Norfolk's Jean Woods, Kim Woods, Melvin Woods and Trevor Brown in the fours final.



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