Leeds duo going for gold In the Commonwealth Games 2018

Andy Denton (l) and Graham Poucher (r) are hoping to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in 2018

Andy Denton (l) and Graham Poucher (r) are hoping to represent England at the Commonwealth Games in 2018

 

By Mark Kielesz-Levine

A former Ibiza DJ and an ex-footballer are attempting to go for gold in the Commonwealth Games in 2018 in lawn bowls.

The unusual pairing only started bowling in 2012 but have reached such a high standard in a short time that they now harbour hopes of representing England when the games head to Queensland, Australia in 2018.

Andy Denton, 39, from Wetherby, and Graham Poucher, 34, from Morley,  joined Leeds and District Indoor Bowls Club at the John Charles Centre for Sport in late 2012 and began playing under the team name The Sons of Drake.

This name was inspired by arguably the most famous bowls player in history, Sir Francis Drake who was second in command of the English against the Spanish Armada in 1588.

Despite its reputation as a sport taken up by those approaching or in retirement age, bowls has been a part of the Commonwealth Games since 1930.

Graham, a senior press officer, said: “We were inspired by watching the Olympics in 2012 and Andy and I both have bad knees but we wanted to do something new and this ruled out most sports, but bowls caters for this and we found it was a Commonwealth sport!”

The two will face a long journey in an attempt to represent Engand at the games but it all started from scratch with neither player having any real knowledge or experience of the game.

Graham added: “We researched all the organisations, types of bowls, rules, techniques and how we could go from zeros to heros! We even contacted the Chief Executive of Bowls England who are involved with the England Commonwealth selection process.”

Despite both players only playing for less than two years, they now play for the Leeds and District B team but their journey has much more humble beginnings with the two getting heavily beaten almost every week in their debut season in the league, but they were keen to carry on, improve and learn from their experiences.

The process in getting selected for England for the games in 2018 is long and drawn out. First the two must impress in the Leeds team and be selected for the A team where they hope to hld down a place. As well as performing well in their own league they must then hope to be selected for the Yorkshire team.

Beyond that, they would then hope to catch the eye of the England selectors in the year before the games take place.

But the two have also been dividing opinion within the bowls world. With one of the most controversial moments being when the two turned up to a league match wearing full matching addidas kit, with their names on the back despite not having played a competitive game and others not thinking that the pair were serious about the sport.

Graham,  a father -of-one, said: “Despite this a lot have people have been supportive, some may say we are aiming too high, too fast, but a lot of people have been encouraging us, its down to us and the hours we put into it, we are absolutely focused to do it.”

Andy, a father-of-two, had a fledging career as professional footballer, having stints at his boyhood club Charlton Athletic and then finally Spurs. In his late teens however, a serious knee injury ended his ambitions on the pitch.

Graham was a resident DJ around Yorkshire before hitting the bright lights of Ibiza, with a residency in San Antonio and gigs at Super Clubs including Es Paradis.

The two bowlers are also currently part of the Welcome to Yorkshire team bringing the Grand Départ of the Tour de France to Yorkshire.

Despite busy personal and professional lives, both players are determined to make the team for 2018.

Graham added: “If we don’t make it, it is our own fault. The amount of pressure is incredible but as Andy says, the pressure is a privilege and there will be no better feeling than being under immense pressure and succeeding.”

 

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