Nicky Brett bids to join an exclusive club of bowling legends when he sets off to the Potters Resort in Norfolk this weekend ready to defend the Just World indoor singles title.
Only four other players have managed to win back-to-back titles since the championships were introduced almost 40 years ago.
The fact they are four of the greatest bowlers of all time – David Bryant, Tony Allcock, Andy Thomson and Scotland’s record six-time winner Alex Marshall – underlines the enormity of the challenge the local bowler faces in his attempt to retain the crown.
Such is the strength in depth of top talent that no fewer than nine of the world’s top 16 have won the world title at least once, and even though Brett began the season a massive 39 points clear at the top of the ranking list, he’s not considered the favourite by most leading bookmakers.
Scotland’s four-time champion Paul Foster, who Brett displaced as number one, is fancied by most leading firms to regain the title even though he’s slipped to number five in the ranking list some 74 points adrift of the reigning champion.
As Brett acknowledges, statistics show that any of the leading players are capable of winning the title on their day, but he heads to the famous Norfolk venue confident about his own ability and current form, and, most importantly, feeling totally relaxed.
“Now I’ve won the title I haven’t the pressure of other years wondering whether I was ever going to win it,” he said.
“Having achieved my long-held ambition, I can just go and enjoy myself free from that pressure, as everything I achieve now in this event is a bonus.
“There are dangers about wherever you look, and although I’m the top ranked player following a couple of good years on the circuit, I don’t confess to being the top player, as there are many others who have achieved much more over a number of years and are more than capable of winning the title.
“However, I’ve shown over the past few years that I can compete with and beat the best on the day, and if all the cards fall into place, you never know what might happen.”
Brett won’t know until this weekend who his first round opponent will be on Monday week as he awaits the winner of a pre-tournament event featuring qualifiers from South Africa, Hong Kong, USA, Canada and Israel, plus the current World Indoor Bowls Council singles champion Andrew Kyle (Ireland).
Brett’s opening round match, which will be shown live on BBC 2, follows the pairs final, and he’s hoping to be involved in that as well.
The pairs tournament gets under way this weekend when Brett once again teams up with Greg Harlow in a bid to regain the title. They play on Sunday afternoon, with the most likely opponents being England pair Mark Royal and Andy Thomson.
Before he begins his singles defence, Brett will be involved in the drawn mixed pairs next Friday when he teams up with Scotland’s Claire Johnstone for a first round match against England’s Katy Smith and Scotland’s Alex Marshall.
n Local bowlers are making some progress towards the latter stages of the area finals in the national indoor competitions.
Nick Wilkie, Jeff Pitt, Jenny Harvey and Mary Malton are through to the semi-finals of the mixed fours having beaten a Spalding rink skipped by England international Martin Spencer, 16-15.
Wilkie and Pitt, along with Terry Corney, have reached the semi-finals of the triples following a 16-9 defeat of Stamford’s Tony Barwell, and the same trio are also through to the last eight in the over 50 triples after beating Stamford’s Bob Warters 17-5.
There was no joy, though, for Pete Harvey in the over 60 singles – he was beaten 21-11 by Spalding’s Graham Wright.
n The Peterborough men’s senior team resumed their Cambs League programme following the festive break with a 72-56 victory away to March A, earning them another eight points in their quest for title honours.
Peterborough 72 (8), March A 56 (2) – (Peterborough rinks only):
Terry Corney, Norman Gray, Ean Eagle, Ray Keating won 23-12.
Les Sharp, Don Paul, Mick Linnell, Dick Noble won 19-10.
Joe Martin, Graham Jackson, Phil Afford, Mick Duell won 17-16.
Dave Smith, Pete Harvey, Mick Greaves, Rod Maplethorpe lost 13-18.