“For club bowlers the Nationals are like reaching the FA Cup final” – Kirk Smith

18th August, 2022

Can you imagine Gareth Southgate or Sarina Wiegman strapping their boots on and taking part in an FA Cup tie?

England Men’s Triples coach Kirk Smith will buck this trend next week when he joins Gerrards Cross clubmates David Ross and Tim Godman in the Bowls England National Finals.

And according to the Commonwealth Games-winning coach, the Buckinghamshire trio are not just going to Victoria Park for a day out.

“You have to go into every competition thinking you’re going to do well – although there’s other teams that look strong but on our day we should have a good run,” he said.

“I’m now very much looking forward to competing again, it’s totally different to coaching and I expect stepping back on to the same Leamington greens will feel a bit strange at first.

“Apart from a few roll-ups I didn’t play any bowls for three weeks while the Commonwealths were going on which apart from during COVID was the longest I had been away from it for 40 years.

“But I’m still playing at a decent level – I was part of the team that won the British Isles fours back in June – and that also helps with the coaching. The boys in the England team like that I can still play at a semi-decent level, albeit nowhere near their standard, but it does help.”

Kirk Smith looks on during Birmingham 2022

The name Kirk Smith has resonated across lawn bowls for many years – but despite his long and successful career the former England star is still very excited about returning to the Nationals.

“I’ve qualified for 50-plus Nationals now since I first made it to Worthing when I was 16 in 1983 and I have so many great memories from Worthing and Leamington,” he said.

“I had a really good run in the singles to finish runner-up to Tony Allcock the first time he won in 1990 and since then I have won the Fours twice – winning with your friends is just fantastic I can still feel those memories now.

“Victoria Park has a special feel to it now. It is the home of Bowls England and the greens are very good – they have really improved. For club bowlers when you set out at the start of the season it is like trying to get to the FA Cup final and if you win a couple of rounds and momentum starts to build the feeling is out of this world.

“It is everybody’s dream to qualify and it is not impossible for someone from a small county like Bucks where we only have 49 clubs to get a bit of luck with the draw or the green on the night and go all the way. With so many competitions and the greens full from nine in the morning to six in the evening it really is a huge event.”

Even to a seasoned bowler like Smith the phenomenal Birmingham 2022 experience will survive long in the memory.

“It was a huge personal high to see the boys win gold at the end of such a good game even though I wasn’t on the green,” he said.

“It was my first Commonwealth Games as a coach – I got involved for the Atlantic Rim in Cardiff in 2018 – and it was amazing. I can’t describe how much I got out of it – in fact a couple of weeks later I’m still thinking about it regularly.

“To be around the boys and girls, the paras and the management team who were fantastic was really special. John McGuinness did a fantastic job – he surrounded himself with good people and if you do that you’ve got a chance.

“The home crowd was incredible – to do well against the likes of Australia was great but to hear the crowd going crazy and celebrating every bowl really did lift us and it must have made it harder for the other countries which is exactly what you want from a home games.”

Tickets to the National Finals start at just £4 for adults and £1 for Under 21s offer a full day of top-class sporting action.  Tickets increase to £5.50 adults and £1.50 Under 21s at weekends.  Event passes are available and all tickets are cheaper in advance.

Please note: U16s must be accompanied by an adult. Under 3s enter free of charge.

Click here to buy your tickets now.


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