A team of Sunderland bowlers are ready to embrace the honour of representing England at the British Isles Bowls Championships in Scotland.
Silksworth Bowls Club’s Philip Dixon, Neal Ridley, Ian Riches and David Bolt will fly the flag for the nation in the fours competition following their triumph in the Bowls England National Fours Championship last year.
Philip, 25, said: “It’s a huge honour to represent your country and we’re desperate to produce our best performance to make sure we do ourselves justice.
“It’s something that I’ve dreamed about ever since I started playing at the age of 11, and there will be a huge sense of pride when I pull on the shirt.”
The team qualified for the championships following their victory at the national stage last year when they represented Durham after previously winning the county title.
The foursome battled through six tough rounds of competition to secure the crown, which included a 30-7 victory over host county Warwickshire.
Dixon added: “The victory over Warwickshire proved that we weren’t going to be pushovers and we took a great deal of confidence from the manner of the win.”
The team also took the major scalp of Kent – who boasted England international Andy Thomson in their ranks – in the semi-finals as they came from 12-1 down to secure a 17-16 victory.
“David and I were part of a team that lost to Thomson at the competition in 2012, so it was good to get revenge and defeat a really talented player on our way to the final,” Dixon added.
Further drama was to await the foursome in the final against Yorkshire as the match went down to the final end when the team produced a three to clinch the crown 21-19.
In the aftermath of their triumph, the team were stunned when they were told they had been awarded the chance to represent England at the British Championships.
Dixon said: “It was a very surreal moment, the celebrations were great and being told that we were representing England made the moment even more delightful.”
The team now travel to Eddlewood Bowling Club in Hamilton, where they have been handed a first-round bye, but will then face the winner of the match between Jersey and Wales in the last four.
England have not won the fours competitions since 2007, but the foursome are approaching the competition with no fear of the big occasion.
“We’re not really nervous. There is just a great deal of anticipation to get the tournament under way. We don’t really know much about our opponents, but we know that they will be quality players to get to this stage,” Dixon said.
“We know that will have to be at our best, but there’s great bond between us as a group so there is no fear of failure.
“We’re just going to go out there and see what happens because anything can occur on the day.
“This will probably be the pinnacle of our careers as a team and winning the fours would be the icing on the cake.”