The pennant season is almost upon us so it seems an appropriate time to undergo a refresher course on the basic principles required to make up a top pennant side. Some of you may have a copy of my booklet released in 1988 carrying the same title as above. My aim in putting together such a publication was to make it easier for those players about to assume a new position at the beginning and throughout the current pennant season. It is very difficult, for an up and coming player in particular, as she may be moved from say, second in the fourth side to third in the third side to lead in the No.1 team, all within a short period of time. Over the past few decades I’ve observed many of the men bowlers climb quickly through the ranks and are elevated (if skipping means moving up?) to the position of skipper, essentially on their bowling ability but with a limited knowledge of how to build a head or get the best out of their team.
Whilst I may have been promoted to a pennant skip as a relative novice (in a tiny club) I was called upon to complete 69 games in the second or third position at Interstate level before being promoted to the role of captaining a State rink.
My first recommendation is that you make every effort to go along and observe top players, both men and women, in Interstate clashes and I’m sure you’ll learn just what team play is all about. If you aspire to be a skipper try getting close to a rink captained by an International player and pit your skills against theirs by anticipating the shots they call their team on and if they differ in their directions from your thoughts, then try and work out why.
Over the years I have sought the knowledge of players who have excelled in specific positions, so some of the ideas put forward in this article are not necessarily my own and I particularly refer to the position of lead. As previously confessed I didn’t play lead (to my great regret) at any level but I certainly studied almost all the expert leaders over the last four decades and soon learned that those first two bowls on each end will set the pattern of play for the day.
Each position in the rink will be covered in detail and because of the lengthy introduction only the requirements of a good lead will be analysed in this article. The second, third and skip will have to wait another month.
- Don’t waste this exercise by talking too much.
- Concentrate on finding rhythm – this will quickly give you the pace of the green.
- Select the best side of the green to play- shy away from playing around the clock (both backhands or both forehands) – stay with one side of the green, you’ll find it more consistent and will teach you to bolster any weakness in a particular hand.
Rolling the jack:
- Deliver the jack with the same care and attention you would a bowl – use it as a first bowl to get the pace of the green.
Plan of the day:
- Having selected the best side of the green to play, confirm your preference with the skip.
- Don’t ask to change your hand during play unless it is absolutely necessary – there is great merit in playing the hand on which you are familiar.
- Check skip’s requirements regarding length of jack required.
- Also check where she wants the mat placed in subsequent ends – personally I request the leader select a mark on the side bank at each end and place the mat in the same position each time, unless a change of tactics is required.
- Your job is to get your two bowls as near to the jack as possible. The one exception is that if your first bowl is more than half a metre short, try and place your second just past the jack, thus avoiding disaster if the opposing second or third trails the jack.
- It’s not necessarily your job to get the shot, it’s more important at this early stage of the end that you get bowls in the head.
- Don’t be tempted to niggle at the head – it could cost your team dearly.
- You may be beating your opponent but your side is losing so don’t be upset if the skipper decides to change your hand in an endeavour to alter the opposition skip’s tactics.
- You have 6 or 7 minutes to fill in between your turns to bowl. Don’t fall into the trap of watching play on other rinks. Form a plan that allows you to closely follow your own rink but also set aside a minute or so for relaxation – tension can creep in during a long game.
- In addition to honing your skills at rolling the jack I suggest you should try placing a bowl in the draw (about a meter short of the jack) and practice drawing around and under the offending bowl. Changing your feet position on the mat will help you achieve your objective.
The great Don Woolnough (he played more than 350 games for Victoria – almost all as lead) would average changing his hand once in 25 ends. He believed that the best way to generate self-confidence was to use his opponent’s bowl as a guide to draw around , or occasionally under and still finish close to the jack.
Another great leader, David Grant, devised an idea whereby he broke his matches into lots of 5 ends. Assessing his results from the previous five ends and attempting to improve on his next five. This is an excellent way to maintain full concentration over 25 ends, a difficult task at any time. Such an aid can be used successfully by other members of the team also.
Arrange with your second and third to pick up one another’s bowl, and in doing so, pass on some form of encouragement, which can even contain a slice of humour to ease that dreaded tension. Such actions help to engender good team spirit.
The performance of a leader on any given day will dictate whether or not the skip can play offensive or defensive bowls – never, never underestimate the importance of having a good, compatible leader in your side.