Commonwealth Games: Gary Willis has overseen Australia's fortunes as lawn bowls assistant coach

Picture perfect: Australian lawn bowler Karen Murphy during her Women's Singles Sectional Play - Section A, Round 1, Match 1. Photo: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy
Picture perfect: Australian lawn bowler Karen Murphy during her Women's Singles Sectional Play - Section A, Round 1, Match 1. Photo: AAP Image/Tracey Nearmy

Gary Willis has experienced the Commonwealth Games as a player and a coach.

The Bonny Hills resident competed for Australia in the lawn bowls at Manchester 2002 and 16 years later he has been on the other side of the fence at the Gold Coast event.

He oversaw the entire Australian lawn bowls set up in Queensland as assistant coach.

He admitted the home games experience brought a high level of pressure and it was different to what he experienced in England as a player.

The former bowler still isn’t sure which role he prefers – on the green, or behind the green.

“Sometimes I wish I was still a player and other times I’m glad I’m a coach on the international scene,” he said.

“We’ve got a lot of people relying on us too so we’re trying to do the best we can to make everything happen.”

A crowd of more than 2500 witnessed Australia’s nail-biting women’s fours success over Malaysia, a sight rarely seen in lawn bowls.

“I’ve never had a home games experience so that’s sensational having the home crowd behind you,” he said.

“It was like a football match, but that brings pressure as well.

Willis admitted it was disappointing the Australian men’s pairs were unable to back up their world championship success of 2016.

Karen Murphy was also unable to replicate her 2016 world champion status when she was knocked out in the quarter finals.

The assistant coach shared Murphy’s pain after he suffered a similar fate in Manchester in 2002.

“We were really confident going into this that they’d medal and with Karen who has played over 600 tests for Australia we had high expectations for her,” he said.

“But sport is a funny thing and that’s the way it goes sometimes. It’s always tough because the Comm Games is a different cat and you always get some strange results.

“We were knocked out in the quarter finals in Manchester so that was disappointing for me.”

There had also been a few familiar faces from the Hastings having a chat to the Australian assistant coach around the venues.

“I’ve seen quite a few people from home,” Willis said.

“Port Macquarie has a big base of bowlers and it’s good to see a few familiar faces in the crowd and saying gday.

“I love being part of Bonny Hills and it’s great to see those people around the traps at the games.”

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