It has been another eventful year on the local bowls scene, with many clubs struggling to fill their allocation of players for various league commitments.
2016 will be remembered as the year Sunderland Council wielded the axe on several local outdoor greens in an attempt to save money, a move which has been replicated around the country.
It has also been another fruitless year in the Sunderland Indoor club’s search for a new venue, and with the definition of leisure facilities moving more to coffee outlets, a decision on the direction of the club is looming.
On the green, the Team of the Year was Houghton Dairy Lane as they completed a domestic treble.
In the Earl Cup, they ended Silksworth’s four-year dominance as Dairy Lane went through the campaign unbeaten to take the title for the first time in seven years.
In the Swan Cup, Dairy Lane secured a third title on the bounce, although this time they did lose one game, the treble was completed with a Grindon League title.
The Dairy Lane duo of Joe Sutherland and Alan J Dunn added the Silver Jack’s title to the club’s magnificent season, while the Seaham Town trio of Bryan Henderson (Jnr), Mal Baker and Brian Henderson (Snr) lifted the Burkett Shield, a first for the Seaham club.
Silksworth may have lost out in the Sunderland and District League, however, they made up for it in the various Bowls Durham County competitions as they collected three county titles.
David Bolt lifted the Singles and went on to lift the Northern Counties title.
The quartet of Shaun McIntosh, Stevie Cairns, Billy Ferry and Gary Farquhar took the County Fours title and talented youngster Jaxon McKenna, the Two Bowl Singles title.
McKenna was also a runner-up in the Junior Singles.
Dairy Lane’s Colin Brown, Dave Armstrong and Dan Todner finished runners-up in the Triples.
In the Ladies County competitions, two Dairy Lane bowlers stood out, Susan Forster and Joan Rodgerson, aided by Glynis Morgan in the Triples, and Margaret Metcalf in the Fours.
The Dairy Lane duo picked up the Triples and Fours County titles, while Forster and Rodgerson also finished runners-up in the Pairs.
At the National Championships at Leamington Spa, the Dairy Lane pair saw a golden chance of a National title slip away as they crashed out in the semi-finals.
It was a disappointing season for both men’s and ladies County A teams, as both failed to set the world on fire.
The ladies were well beaten in the Johns Trophy, while the men failed to get a head of steam in the Middleton Cup.
The men’s County Indoor Liberty squad went from losing the Liberty final in April, to crashing out in the first round to Cumbria in November.
Two players maintained their domination of the local scene, and during 2016, continued to add to an already impressive playing CV.
Indoors, Gary Smith continued to enhance his reputation on the national stage with another appearance at the televised World Indoor Championships at Potters.
This was then followed when he lifted the Open Singles Circuit title in November.
Smith’s hopes of adding the Premier Threes title were dashed in the last eight.
Bolt, having already secured a county outdoor title, went on to represent England in the Hong Kong Singles Classic and in the process became only the fourth Englishman to take the prestigious title.
Bolt also cemented his place in the England team at both indoor and outdoor level, and has qualified for the latter stages of the Indoor Champion of Champions in February next year.
It’s a swift return to Inter County action for both Sunderland and Houghton next weekend, with both looking to bounce back after disappointing defeats.
Sunderland entertain bottom of the table Gateshead A, who have yet to notch a rink point out of two games, following the heavy loss against Hartlepool, the Wearsider’s will be looking for an improved performance.
At Houghton: R.Usher, I.Fairweather, R.Jobling, F.Froud, P.Thomson (Snr), E.Downes, W.Roberts, P.Dixon
At Gateshead: K.Armstrong, M.Carr, R.Mckie, P.Thomson, G.Brown, TW.Todd, P.Brickle, S.Angus
Houghton face second placed The Parks, as yet no team has been selected.
Current league standings: Hartlepool 2-19½, Parks 3-19, Durham 2-17, Sunderland 3-10, South Shields 2-8, Houghton 2-6½, Gateshead A 2-0.
In the Seniors League, Sunderland travel to Hartlepool, currently bottom of Group 2.
Sunderland’s hopes of even reaching the second play-off spot already look beyond them and defeat against second placed Hartlepool would extinguish all hopes.
At Hartlepool: G.Brown, J.Jones, R.Robson, W.Roberts, P.Thomson, E.Downes, P.Brickle, TW.Todd, A.Grimes, M.Carr, F.Froud, R.Jobling. Reserve – A.Wood.
In Group 3, Houghton A will look to maintain their charge at the top when they travel to Stanley B .
Latest group standings: Group 2: Darlington B 5-23½, Hartlepool A 5-17½, Stanley 5-9½, Ferryhill 5-5½, Sunderland 4-4. Group 3: South Shields 5-19, Houghton A 5-19, Gateshead 5-10, Parks B 5-7, Stanley B 4-5. Group 4: Durham B 4-17, Hartlepool B 5-14, Parks A 4-12, Gateshead B 4-9½, Houghton B 5-2½.
H Sadly, 2016 has been cruel on the local bowls scene as many respected and loved bowlers sadly passed away.
This year we have lost: Tommy Murray (Sunderland IBC), John Hall (Silksworth), Margaret Clark (Barnes WE), Norman Gray (LNER), Stan Turner (Services), Tommy Hayes (Houghton DL), Ernie Graham (Grindon Mill), Tommy Turnbull (Roker Park), George Storey (Roker Marine), George (Spadger) Grieves (South Hylton), Gordon Thompson (South Hylton), Jimmy Laidler (Barnes Park), Laurence Williams (Washington Glebe), John Dunn (Dawdon), Ron Bell (Houghton DL), Mary Middleton (Silksworth), Keith Sunley (Roker Marine), each one will be sadly missed.