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Bowls lesson there for others to learn . . .

As Scotland's bowlers returned from the World Outdoor Championships in Australia with an armful of medals this week, it would have taken a much more magnanimous man than me not to feel a deep sense of self-satisfaction.

It was only two years ago that our bowlers suffered an almost unheard of Commonwealth Games in which not a medal was secured, on the back of preparation that was supposed to have been made more professional, but instead seemed to fracture morale.

It all seemed to unravel ahead of the Games as key players withdrew for a variety of obscure reasons while, just as mysteriously, their high-performance manager did not then accompany the team to Delhi.

I had already been questioning why a country with Scotland's bowling-tradition had required a Welsh high performance manager and an Australian coach. All the more so when I then turned up at last year's Scottish Bowls Championship and found officials of the governing body and pundits seemed unanimous in the view that the newly created post of national head coach would have to be filled by an import, probably another Australian, because, they explained, the game is so much more professional there.

In commercial and sub-international competitive terms that clearly seems so, but thereafter, in seeking leading Scottish players of the sport to talk to – that is a surprisingly difficult task, such is the nature of an event in which the big names seem to be eliminated ahead of the finals – I found David Gourlay running a stall.

During our interview the former indoor world champion and long-time indoor world No.1, who spent several years living and playing in Australia, explained how he felt he had taken his business, David Gourlay Sports, as far as he could and was now seeking new challenges, and hoped to revive his outdoor career.

The 20-yard walk back to the press cabin was hardly the Road to Damascus, yet the solution seemed obvious and, for the rest of the duration of the championship, I shared my views with all who would listen as well as several who would have preferred not to, including the sport's hierarchy, and even Gourlay himself, whenever our paths crossed.

Here was a man who had the benefit of both that experience of the advancements being made in Australia, where sports science is being embraced in what was once considered the old man's game, and of being part of a Scottish bowling dynasty. Who better to understand that while future planning must embrace the likes of fitness programmes, psychological support, nutrition training and match analysis, that has to be introduced among current world-class performers intelligently and sensitively.

Yet, given my lack of involvement with the sport – it has been limited to covering that annual event in recent years and the odd interview with the likes of the wonderful Willie Wood, Alex Marshall and Paul Foster – it was extraordinary that what seemed an obvious choice to me had not already occurred to its decision-makers.

Gourlay, who subsequently applied for, and got, the head coach's position, told me yesterday that the overriding emotion after an event in which every bowler in his team of five men and five women returned home with medals had been "immense relief". Yet he was clearly delighted at how things have turned out, as all involved in Scottish Bowls should be.

All in all, though, the episode did little to change my view that, as we prepare to host the Commonwealth Games in the year that aptly marks the centenary of the Great War, it is too often the case in Scottish sport that our rampant lions are led by donkeys.

Consequently, the wording used by Warren Gatland as he explained, at yesterday's British and Irish Lions press briefing, the appointment of his fellow 2009 assistants Graham Rownstree and Rob Howley as two thirds of his coaching team, seemed strikingly relevant, albeit accidentally so.

Having been assistant on the 2009 tour of South Africa, Gatland said he had discussed problems facing the tourists with then head coach Ian McGeechan, veteran of more Lions tours than any other player or coach.

McGeechan, he said, had explained that, while lessons were invariably learned on these tours, a completely new coaching team would invariably be appointed next time around which would then set about "reinventing the wheel".

Given Scottish rugby's current ills, that phrase seemed particularly pertinent as expectation grows that Scott Johnson, the backs coach brought in by Andy Robinson just a few months ago, will be appointed Scotland head coach on at least an interim basis.

If so, the calls to appoint someone who already has a full understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of the Scottish game and how to harness them, will have been ignored.

Time to reach for the spoke wrench, tyre valves and inner tubes, no doubt, as we anticipate further lectures on what Scottish players can and cannot do and how frustrating it is that they cannot respond to necessary change more quickly.

Rugby and bowls are not alone in Scottish sporting circles in having appointed people with a fixed idea of what they want to achieve and how they want to get there, without having fully realised the capacities and limitations of the talent resource at their disposal.

At the risk of mixing metaphors too clunkily, at least in the case of the bowls administration, the "donkeys" left without a medal at the last Commonwealth Games, once led to water, took a reviving drink. We wait to see what happens elsewhere.

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