Two junior Ralston bowlers have been selected to represent Renfrewshire, as the sport sees an influx of new young players.

Ralston Bowling Club members Abbie Harris, 15, and Ryan Kerr, 14, were both chosen for the Renfrewshire Bowling Association Under 25s team following a successful trial. The pair will become the first junior Ralston players to represent the club at county level in over 20 years.

Abbie, whose sister Aimee already bowls for the Scottish Ladies team, is the latest from her family in a long line of bowlers - as her grandad Syd explained.

“My grandfather played at bowls, my father played at bowls, as did I - so we’ve all played at bowls,” he said. “I was dying to get Abbie interested in it. And as soon as she reached the age of five, we took her along and showed her the ropes.”

She showed an instant knack for the sport, soon playing against people much older and more experienced than herself - and not just competing, but winning.

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She won the Shettleston Bowling Club championship three times, as well as winning a tournament at West of Scotland Indoor Club when she was only 11 years old - then winning it again at 12, and again the following year.

“I’m 71 now,” said grandad Syd. “I was a good bowler when I was younger. I used to coach Abbie, and she would try as hard as she could to beat me, but she could never do it. But now, I can’t keep up with her.”

Having established bowling superiority over her grandad, Abbie recently decided to join Ralston because of their thriving junior section - headed by coach Jim Cullen.

“Ryan and Abbie have been a great addition to our juniors section, because they’re really, really good bowlers,” said Jim. “But I’d like to thank all who have nurtured them as young bowlers - Shettleston Bowling Club, West of Scotland Indoor Bowling Club, and Paisley Bowling Club.”

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Since re-establishing Ralston’s youth team, Jim has been buoyed by the sport’s growing uptake amongst younger generations.

“There is a massive rise in the popularity of bowling with young people,” he said. “The image has changed - it’s not all white uniforms anymore.

“If you ever go to see Scotland’s U25 team play, the amount of young folk, and the energy they put into bowling, is unbelievable. It’s a totally changing sport.”

Jim believes that the sport can offer a number of benefits to new players.

“I would recommend it to young people for various reasons,” he added. “For one, it's nice gentle exercise.

“It’s not just a case of trying to deliver a bowl. It’s like chess on grass. There’s a whole lot of tactics involved, and a whole lot of teamwork. It’s a great sport to give young folk some discipline, and promote cooperation. It’s always a team effort in bowling.”

Abbie’s grandad Syd agrees that the sport is appealing to a growing younger crowd.

“It’s been known as an old man’s game for years,” he said. “But having been taking Abbie and Aimee around, it would amaze you the amount of young people. It’s phenomenal. It’s getting more popular all the time.”

What is it about the sport that is appealing to younger generations? “It’s partly the friends they meet,” adds Syd. “They’re all lovely people. But also it’s the competition - once they realise that there is serious competition, they get really into it.”

With appearances for Scotland’s U18 team and a sponsorship deal from a bowls supplier already under her belt, Abbie has her sights firmly set on the sport’s pinnacle, an appearance at the Commonwealth Games. Until then, victory over her big sister would be nice.

Ralston’s evergrowing juniors section is always welcome to new members. Juniors play on Sundays at 1pm, and only a pair of flat shoes are required.

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