IF YOU notice an unusually large police presence at the Kelvingrove Lawn Bowls Centre during the Commonwealth Games, do not be unduly alarmed. They will all just be there to cheer on Darren Burnett.
A police officer in Arbroath, Burnett is a member of the ten-strong Scotland team announced yesterday. He has been exempted from the general cancellation of leave for the Games, but he knows that his wife Linsey – also in the police – may not be so fortunate. For her, and for dozens of their colleagues, the only way of supporting Darren may be to get a very temporary posting to the west end of Glasgow.
“I would imagine a few of my colleagues will be brought down to Glasgow to police the event, because it’s going to be huge,” Burnett said after his selection was confirmed. “All leave has been cancelled during that period for quite some time. I had to put a lot of reports in several months back to make the point I was in the selection squad and ask if I make the team would I be able to get the time off.
“I’ve been very well supported by Police Scotland and it was fantastic when the decision came back that they would allow me the time off – but the fact I had to do that so many months ago just shows you how tight the time-off situation is during the Commonwealths. I think making the team is the only way to get leave at the end of July!
“The sad thing is there is no guarantee that Linsey will get the time off to support me. It’s one thing to put in a report saying you’re competing, but to say you want to come down and watch your husband play is a bit different. So she’ll have to wait and see how the work schedule goes.
“Some of the boys at the station would certainly be glad to be involved in policing the bowls event. When I won the World Indoors in January there were a lot of officers tuned into the final. I still get some of them come up to me and say ‘I watched bowls for the first time to see your final’ and it’s great to have their support. When you’re competing at this level you need a fair bit of time off and I have to be conscious of the fact that if I’m away competing I’m leaving them back there doing the work. So I really appreciate that they’ve always been so supportive.”
Burnett, like all of his team-mates, will compete in two events in Glasgow. Every bowler knows which two they will take part in – singles, pairs, triples or fours – but, in order to keep rival countries guessing, that information will not be made public until closer to the deadline in June.
Having said that, it will come as no great surprise if Burnett is named in the singles. He has been in excellent form since the start of the year, and having missed out on a medal in Delhi by just one place, when he and Neil Spiers came fourth in the pairs, he is determined to contribute to Scotland’s tally this time. “Winning the World Indoors in January has given me a huge confidence boost,” he continued. “You do walk taller after a win like that.
“To pit your game against the top players in the world and come out on top knowing you have played well is a massive boost.
!My draw was tough, playing former world champions Greg Harlow and Stewart Anderson, so to come through those challenges and win an event like that gives you great confidence looking ahead to the major event of the summer.
“It’s a difficult squad to break into because the quality of bowls in Scotland is unbelievable, so you can never take selection for granted. It’s been a long, hard process and it’s good to finally be announced in the final five. The excitement has been high for a quite a while and with everyone in the country speaking about the Commonwealths it’s hard not to have it in your mind.
“I think I’m speaking for every player that this has been at the back of our minds at every major event we’ve competed in. Now the selection process is concluded we’ve got a few months ahead of us to really focus on the Games and I’m sure the management will have a good structure ahead of us. We’ll be training a lot on the Kelvingrove greens to make the home advantage count.
“We know that, if we play well, we definitely have medal prospects among us because it’s a top quality team.
“It’s up to us now to go out there and do ourselves justice – and do the country and everyone who has supported us proud. That’s the pressure we put on ourselves to play the way we can and if we do that there is no reason why we can’t deliver a few medals.”
Announcing the team, head coach David Gourlay echoed Burnett’s confidence. “We have a baseline target of two medals, but I firmly believe if we perform we’ll exceed that target,” he said. “This is our best-prepared bowls team and we look forward to being part of what we believe will the most successful Games ever for Team Scotland.”
To represent Team Scotland at 2014 Commonwealth Games
Lauren Baillie (Port Seton)
Caroline Brown (Bellshill)
Claire Johnston (Auchinleck)
Margaret Letham (Bothwell)
Lorraine Molloy (East Whitburn)
Darren Burnett (Arbroath)
Paul Foster (Troon)
Alex Marshall (Tranent)
David Peacock (Dalkeith)
Neil Spiers (Edinburgh).
Para Sport team to be announced next month.