Waterloo’s stunning end-game

The Waterloo Bowls final in Blackpool ended in controversy when finalist Steve Freer from Birmingham declared himself unfit to play, handing the trophy to Whitfield's Gary Ellis without a wood bowled
The Waterloo Bowls final in Blackpool ended in controversy when finalist Steve Freer from Birmingham declared himself unfit to play, handing the trophy to Whitfield's Gary Ellis without a wood bowled
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GARY Ellis won his fourth Waterloo crown green bowls title – but in the most bizarre manner in the century-long history of the Blackpool flagship event.

Ellis won by default when his scheduled final opponent Steve Freer, of Birmingham, sensationally pulled out because he was in no fit state to play the decider.

It will go down as one of the most remarkable incidents in the Waterloo, which dates back to 1907.

The final was scrapped, with a clearly distressed Freer saying he could not take part. The organisers were concerned about the bowler’s welfare amid fears he could collapse on the green in the middle of the final.

Waterloo bowls manager Jim Parker said: “I have never known anything like it. I know of Steve being unwell before in the Isle of Man, but that was after a competition and not during the day.

“The lad does have a stress problem and he told us he just couldn’t see.

“I went to see him and asked if he wanted another half-hour. Gary was okay with that and didn’t want to win it the way he did.

“But Steve told me couldn’t play. The main thing is that he is all right. He could quite easily have come out on to the green, started the final and then collapsed. None of us would want that.”

Ellis’ victory means he is just one win away from equalling Brian Duncan’s all-time record of five Waterloo titles, but he said that was the furthest thing from his mind.

Asked about the circumstances of his triumph, Ellis said: “It is unprecedented. I just hope the lad is all right.

“I have known Steve a long time and I know he’s had some problems. I just hope he is okay. Winning this does not matter – all that matters is that he is all right. My name will be on the trophy but I have not really won it. It’s an anticlimax but I hope he is okay.”

As for getting close to the Duncan record, Ellis added: “That doesn’t matter at the minute.”

The decision to scrap the final stunned the Waterloo crowd, though clearly all their sympathy was with Freer, who was ushered away by friends and went to hospital for checks.

Freer had earlier halted his semi-final for a time-out, having complained of feeling unwell and having blurred vision. He returned to win through to the final convincingly.

Almost lost in the drama of the afternoon was the fact that Graeme Wilson, who had been vying with Ellis for favouritism with the greenside bookmakers, lost in the quarter-finals and is yet to add the elusive Waterloo title to his considerable collection of bowls triumphs.

Quarter-finals: Gary Ellis (Whitefield) 21, Jimmy Derby (Radcliffe) 14; Paul Bailey (Sheffield) 21, Tommy Johnstone (Poynton) 16; Andy Hayes (St Helens) 21, Danny Nixon (Winsford) 13; Steve Freer (Birmingham) 21, Graeme Wilson (Audenshaw) 15.

Semi-finals: Ellis 21, Bailey 14; Freer 21, Hayes 11.

Final: Ellis won via default against Freer.

- SIMON Coupe gained consolation for missing out on a hat-trick of Waterloo titles when he won the Marton Institutre crown green competition.

The Preston bowler beat Winsford’s Glynn Cookson in the final played on a very wet night.

Results: John Kennish 21, Stuart Mort 19; Glynn Cookson 21, Darren Edmondson 18; Simon Coupe 21, Gary Ellis 17; Chris Brown walked over against the injured John Metters.

Semi-finals: Cookson 21, Kennish 15; Coupe 21, Brown 15. Final: Coupe 21, Cookson 19.