It takes a real mix of people to build a successful company, and Canford is no different. We are a diverse team with a diverse range of specialities and interests; none more so than our Production Manager, and 2019's Champion of Champions, Martin Puckett.
By day, Martin works at our Portland Metalwork and Production facility, but he also has a whole other career away from Canford. Martin is an internationally acclaimed Lawn and Indoor Bowls champion and is just back from his latest tournament, the 2023 World Bowls Indoor Championship, in Australia.
Adam: Hi Martin! Everyone was ecstatic to hear of your success in Australia but, I must admit, I thought: 'Martin is too young to be a bowls champion… right?
Martin: Hah, there is still a ‘it's an old people's game’ stigma attached to bowls. But, when you go to a World Championships, or look at Commonwealth Games teams, it’s unlikely you’ll find anyone over 50; the England indoor team is full of 20-40 year olds, it’s just that the game doesn’t get great exposure to non-bowlers.
Adam: The little bit I know about bowls, I know it's an ancient game with a rich and diverse history. Is it getting more popular again at the moment? And what is being done to attract younger players to the game?
Martin: The World Bowls Tour Indoor Championships (shown on the BBC every January) is a fairly quiet, formal version of the game. Whilst it’s mostly players under 50, that doesn’t really reflect the atmosphere and pressure of the international game. However, the fact that the final was contested by two twenty-odd year old qualifiers this year shows that the game is changing.
The outdoor game is big amongst youngsters and growing in popularity. People quite often see white, formal clothing if they’re just passing a bowls green… but at the competitive level, and in Australia, it’s all coloured clothing, coloured bowls, quicker sharper formats, and there’s more money rolling into the game too.
The social side of bowls is fantastic too. I met a lot of different people from different backgrounds in Australia, which shows how bowls really brings people together. There are very few sports where you can play against the best in the world, regardless of ability, and then also share a drink and a laugh with them after the game.
Adam: Clearly you got into the game at a very young age; with all of the distractions of modern life, how did you come to get involved with a more traditional game?
Martin: My grandparents introduced me to bowls at Moonfleet 2000, an indoor bowling club in Weymouth, back in 2003, and Grandad coached me in the junior setup there. I was hooked on bowls very quickly! My Grandad, by his own admission, was only a decent club league bowler and didn't enter a lot of competitions.
We won a few club competitions together though, which was great, and then, without doubt one of my proudest moments, we qualified for the National Family Pairs finals in 2014. It was very special to share some of the highlights of his bowling career with him.
We had a good competitive group at Moonfleet. And there was a strong rivalry with Dorchester in both the youth and senior teams, which really quickened the learning curve in the competitive side of bowls. I owe a lot of my bowls career to a number of people at Moonfleet. I actually ended up moving to play at Dorchester in 2018 which has helped me progress as a player. They have a strong club side and a fantastic group of people, on and off the green.
In 2014 I won my first national title, but to my surprise it was actually the outdoor Under 25 Singles, which has always been my weaker game. This really seemed to kick my indoor game up a few levels from then onwards.
Adam: So, from Dorchester to Australia! What was it like out there?
Martin: We had an absolute blast in Australia! If you can handle 23 hours on a plane then it is absolutely worth it!
I went over with my wife Katherine and our 8 month old son William. I think our biggest fear was how William would handle the flights but he was great and took it in his stride, as usual. Katherine has been incredibly supportive of me and the hours I've put into bowls, and it was great to have them at Warilla with me. It was a massive help to take my mind off bowls; take a walk to the beach or just chill out at our chalet.
Being a Dad has been a big change, but it's an incredible feeling! Katherine's parents and my parents also joined us at Warilla, so I always had some support for every game. We had a week in Sydney before we travelled to Warilla which helped us to get over the jet lag and give us time to relax whilst enjoying everything Sydney has to offer; a great city to explore!
Warilla was superb and pretty much the opposite of most clubs in the UK. With multiple restaurants, large indoor green, three outdoor greens, a big slot machine area, and betting rooms. The club was clearly focused on what it could offer its members and was well setup to manage big events.
I have mixed feeling about coming away with a bronze medal in all honesty. To get so close, and to play at such a high level to just miss out is hard to take. But, I was proud of how I played and will look back on the championships as an achievement, as well as the whole trip being very special.
Adam: Well everyone here is really proud of you. It's an incredible achievement and I'm sure you'll return even stronger! Australia aside, what is the one moment that really stands out for you; your career highlight if you will?
Martin: There have been so many highlights! Personally, winning the national Champion of Champions Singles in 2019, National Singles in 2022 and 2 OSC Grand finals have given me a lot of self-belief, but my highlight has to be playing for my country at junior and senior level. Every time you get the opportunity to pull on an England shirt, it is special. Not many people get to represent their country in any sport, so I always feel very lucky and an immense amount of pride to play for England. To win seven indoor British Isles series consecutively is something I, and the rest of the team, can be very proud of too.
Adam: Certainly huge achievements! So what's next for you in the game? What are your plans?
Martin: Well, I'm quite self-critical of my game, but that helps me identify where I can do better. There's always something to take away from a game, win or lose. I've always liked the phrase 'marginal gains', which drives me to practice, improve, and hit the next goal.
I'd like to go two better at a world championships and win it! I feel like I didn't perform that well on the couple of occasions I've qualified for the WBT Championships at Potters. I've competed with, and beaten, plenty of the guys away from Potters, so it would be nice to get back there and perform to the standard that I know I can reach.
I'd like to thank Martin for taking the time out his busy schedule to talk to me about Australia and all things bowls. I think I'll head down to my local green and see if I can get a game…watch this space.