Lawn Bowls World Championships: Wales bidding for medals on Gold Coast

Team manager Anwen Butten hopes for Welsh success at the Lawn Bowls World Championships, which start on the Gold Coast on Tuesday, 29 August.

Having retired internationally after the Commonwealth Games in 2022, Butten is now Wales Women's team boss for the global competition.

Butten competed at six Commonwealth Games, winning two bronzes in the process, along with five World Championship medals, including winning silver at the last Championships in Christchurch in 2016.

The 2020 Championships were cancelled due to the pandemic, but Wales Women will bid to repeat their successes of 2016 when they finished second in the medal table, above England and New Zealand.

"Historically with the World Championships we've done very well, unfortunately there hasn't been one since 2016 because of Covid-19," said Butten.

"We've got Laura Daniels going this year, who at the last World Championships won a gold medal, we did fantastically there, also Melanie Thomas as well who's just won bronze in the Champion of Champions and she's full of confidence, we're very excited to see what Melanie can do."

Also in the team are Bethan Russ, Sara Nicholls and Ysie White, who won gold at the 2019 Atlantic Games with Butten in Cardiff.

"For the three girls and Melanie it'll be the first time that they compete in the Championships themselves," said Butten.

"Hopefully with mine and Caroline Taylor's guidance we can support them to medal success, I'm sure."

Australia finished top of the standings in 2016 and will have home advantage this time around.

In a similar vein to cricket, home advantage can play a crucial role in lawn bowls with greens varying from country to country.

"Playing down in Australia is very different to playing here in the northern hemisphere, the grass is different and the wind has a huge effect on the way the bowls go up the green," said Butten.

"The grass in Wales is different with all the rain, the lawn can be quite heavy and you need a fair bit of power, but out in Australia it's a kind of weed, it's like playing on a car park!"

Bowls a 'family affair'

With a never-ending stream of success, it would be tempting to continue playing indefinitely, but Butten knew the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham would be her last major international competition.

"I've enjoyed every minute of competing. I had knee surgery a year and a half before Birmingham and I really did fight to get back fit for that," said Butten.

"I did tell my family if I was selected for the Games it would be my last major championships and the last time I represent Wales.

"I want to see the success of the Wales Lawn Bowls team continuing and if I can be a small part of inspiring the next individuals then that would be fantastic, I love the sport so much."

The next generation of Wales bowls stars include members of her own family, with daughter Alis and son Hari both having represented Wales at age grade.

Alis and her mum combined to great effect at this year's Welsh National Championships, winning gold in the women's pairs.

"Winning the Welsh pairs with Alis was an absolute delight, we worked hard and played well together," said Butten.

"It was brilliant, I just want to see her doing well now as well as my son, it's a total family affair.

"My parents play, my husband plays bowls, my son and daughter, you wouldn't want to come here for dinner, all we talk about is bowls!"

Now Butten is passing on her knowledge to the future generation, just as her mother did for her.

"I've played for many years with my mum and now to be able to play at a national level with my daughter is a huge privilege, just to see her developing and becoming a great bowler in her own right," said Butten.

"My mum played for Wales as well and been my main coach over the years, she's been great, an inspiration for us, leading us and coaching us, but she can be fierce at times!.

"She can't bear us not winning or not doing well, supporting on the side-lines, but we try not to look at her much as anything we don't get quite right she'll be giving us the evil eyes!"

Commonwealth Games uncertainty

Butten was Wales' team captain at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, where Welsh bowlers earned a total of three medals, including Daniel Salmon and Jarrad Breen's gold in the men's pairs.

However, only one year on the future of the Games is in doubt after Victoria pulled out of hosting in 2026.

"It's a bit worrying if I'm honest with a country like Australia, who support sport financially very well; bowls in itself gets huge funding from the Australian government," said Butten.

"For Wales, Commonwealths are the only time many get to represent Wales at a major event, it's a worry.

"You go from one championships to the next with your preparation so if you can't aim for the Commonwealth Games I worry how people are going to aspire to compete or reach their goals.

"I hope the powers-that-be will get things together and it will be held in three years' time. I will be crossing my fingers."