Middleton Cup repeat tops agenda for Norfolk’s outdoor bowlers in 2013

Norfolk's outdoor bowlers will be competing under a new name and new badge this summer – but with familiar sponsors as they strive to maintain their place at the top of the national game.

What used to be the Norfolk County EBA has now be rebranded as the Norfolk Bowls Association with both the men and ladies games under the same unbrella in a change handed down by the national governing body. But one very important factor which remains the same is the EBA game's financial backing, with Hansells Solicitors and Financial Advisers completing their 10th year as sponsors of the county organisation.

'It's been a delightful decade of partnership,' said Hansells managing partner Roger Holden. 'I and my Hansells colleagues have met some lovely people in those 10 years and I'm looking forward to renewing some excellent friendships on and off the greens during the 2013 season.'

This year's county president, Peter Cottee, a member of Diss and District Bowls Club, said hopes for this summer were high with retention of the Middleton Cup – the trophy awarded to the national county champions – top of the association's wish-list.

'In the 77 years of the existence of the association, Norfolk has won the Middleton Cup five times,' said Cottee. 'This year we are going for back-to-back wins. To do that would be amazing.' He also wants to see Norfolk's Under 25 team go one better this year after reaching the final of their national competition in 2012.'

Association secretary Peter Bird predicted plenty of headlines this summer for three of the association's younger men. They are 24-year-old Wayne Willgress and his 21-year-old brother Jake, who both play for Norfolk BC and Hunstanton's Sam King, 22-year-old son of former world champion Mervyn.

'They are among a number of rising young stars who are going to keep our experienced members on their toes this summer,' he said. 'The older players are going to have to look to their laurels! The future of bowls in Norfolk looks very good.'

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Wayne, Jake and Sam each featured in the all-conquering Middleton Cup team last year, while Wayne and Sam both played internationals for the England U25s.

On the league front, Bird expected defending champions Norfolk Bowling Club and regular title-winners Acle to continue to set the standard. He added that it will be interesting to see how newly-promoted Downham Market – who won the league in 2003, 2005 and 2006 – fare on their return to the top flight. League matches begin on May 1.

Cottee will lead a party on a six-match tour to Kent on May 11-18. A further highlight of the season is a game at Windsor against the Royal Household on Sunday, June 16.

The president has chosen two charities to support during his year in office – East Anglia's Children's Hospices (EACH) and the Primary Club, which provides support for sports initiatives for the visually impaired.