Bowls legend Andy Thomson MBE has announced his immediate retirement from the World Bowls Tour and now plans to coach the Australian team to Commonwealth Games triumph in 2022.
The 65-year-old called time on a decorated 33-year career following his defeat to eventual finalist Greg Harlow at the World Indoor Bowls Championship on the 14th of January.
The Scotsman retires as a three-time World Indoor Singles Champion, also boasting two World Indoor Pairs victories and a Pairs bronze medal from the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria.
Announcing his retirement via a video message shortly after his match, the news came as a surprise to many in the sport.
Thomson said: “I’m 65 now and I just think at the top level of sport you don’t get many top-level sportsmen playing at my age.
“I’m not going to stop playing at national level but at the top elite level I just thought it was time to pack it in.”
Thomson burst onto the scene with a string of national titles as a teenager, but his first landmark win came in 1994 when he became World Indoor Singles Champion.
The most prestigious event on the global calendar, Thomson went on to retain the crown a year later, but it was his third victory that he cherishes the most.
He said: “To win it again in 2012, 18 years later, was extra special because nobody tends to win world titles in their fifties.
“At that stage my dad wasn’t too well and sadly passed away so it was quite an emotional time for me.”
Looking forward, Thomson has joined the Australian national bowls team as a tactical coach to help them prepare for the 2022 Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Thomson was approached by Jackaroo’s head coach Steve Glasson, and the opportunity was too good to pass up.
He said: “They’re very thorough, very professional, probably the best in the world.
“Every time Australian teams have come to the Northern hemisphere they’ve not done too great and they were thinking how do we improve.
“The greens are faster over there and they play different as opposed to our greens which are lusher, so for them it’s how they adapt to heavier type greens.”
Preparations have been disrupted by the pandemic, with travel plans scuppered and replaced by Zoom meetings, but Thomson is hopeful of venturing out when restrictions are lifted.
Born in Fife but having relocated to England in the late 70’s, Thomson lives and bowls in south London.
He represented England throughout his career, and resultantly has no doubts about split loyalties should Australia square off against Scotland or England during the games.
He said: “Being a Scot representing England, I’ve got used to the barracking.
“The thought of me coaching an Australian team against England will be something I don’t think I’ll mind.
“England’s rugby coach is an Australian and he doesn’t think about it, you just try to think about the country you’re representing.”
Tributes have poured in for Thomson in the wake of his announcement, a testament to his popularity within the sport.
World Bowls Tour (WBT) Tournament Director Tom Weir said: “Andy has been a great ambassador for the WBT and for bowls around the globe.
“He’s entertained the public since he was a teenager with his playing prowess and his public persona.
“He’s always been approachable and there’s no doubt he will be a great miss to the Tour and of course his fan club of supporters.”
Image credits: Bowls International