World number three Nicky Brett steps out on the famous blue portable rink at Potters Leisure in Norfolk next week in his bid to become world indoor singles champion for the first time.
Having won two of the last four World Bowls Tour ranking tournaments – back-to-back Scottish International Open titles – the Yaxley-based bowler is 7/1 second favourite with the bookies to land the coveted prize and fulfil a lifelong ambition.
Scotland’s world number one Paul Foster is 4/1 favourite to win the title for a record-equalling fifth time.
The 39-year-old England international has amassed an impressive collection of British and national honours down the years, but winning the world title in front of the BBC TV cameras a fortnight on Sunday would be the icing on the cake.
He’s one of only five players in the current world’s top 16 not to have lifted the crown, and he’s determined not to be labelled as one of the best players in the world never to have achieved it.
It may have taken him close on 14 years to achieve the breakthrough on the WBT circuit and win a first ranking singles title, but since that victory in Scotland in November 2013 he’s never looked back, beating Foster in both the last two Scottish International Open finals in Perth.
Squeezed in between the two titles was a first world indoor pairs title with City of Ely club colleague Greg Harlow, so his form and confidence going into the world’s biggest indoor bowls showpiece has never been higher.
Seeded four this time, he opens his campaign next Wednesday (January 14) afternoon against New Zealand qualifier Andy McLean, but while he acknowledges that on paper he could have received a much tougher assignment, he won’t be taking anything for granted.
“I don’t know anything about him, but I have to treat him with the same respect as if I was playing the world number one, “ said Brett.
“It only takes a loss of concentration, two bad ends or a couple of slices of ill fortune in a tie-break and you could be on your way home.
“Winning the world indoor singles has been something I have been striving for ever since I joined the WBT circuit back in 2000.
“It would be the pinnacle of my career, as I have won most other things available to me indoors.
“I certainly don’t want to be remembered as one of those players who should have won the world title.”
Before setting his sights on the singles, Brett teams up with Harlow this Saturday afternoon to begin their defence of the world indoor pairs.
Their opponents could be the last two winners of the world indoor singles – current champion Darren Burnett and 2013 winner Stewart Anderson, but the Scots first have to defeat Welsh qualifiers Robert Chisholm and Ross Owen in a preliminary round tie.
Brett’s ranking in the top eight means he qualifies for the first time to play in the Mixed Pairs World Matchplay event.
He’s drawn to partner Norfolk’s England international Rebecca Field, winner of the Women’s World Matchplay title in 2013 and runner-up last year, their first round opponents tomorrow week being Scotland’s Stewart Anderson and England youngster Amy Stanton.
With Brett on world indoor pairs duty on Saturday afternoon, it means he misses Cambridgeshire home Liberty Cup inter-county clash with Essex at the City of Ely club.
Cambs, who were runners-up to Kent last year, have five local players in the team – Jeff Newson, Tristan Morton, James Harford, Joe Randall and Simon Law.
The Northants Bowling Federation return to county indoor action on Sunday when they entertain defending Derbyshire Trophy champions Lincolnshire at Stamford IBC (10am).
Having lost their opening fixture to Hunts, Northants can ill afford to slip up against Lincs if they are to be considered a challenger for the southern section title.
Northants: Nick Wilkie, Roger Martin, Martyn Dolby. John Holroyd, Bob Warters, James Harford. Howard Shipp, Andrew Thurston, Simon Law. Brian Martin, Joe Randall, Jeff Newson.
The local bowls community are mourning the death of well-known local bowler Dave McWilliam, a member of the Langtoft Pearl club for the past 11 years since the merger with his former club Pearl.
The funeral service is at Peterborough Crematorium on Monday, January 19 at 2.30pm and afterwards at the Peterborough & District Club.