THE bowling bobby now has competition for his status as Arbroath’s most illustrious sports star.

Darren Burnett has long been a well-kent face around the Angus town, both as a community police officer but also as a two-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist.

He will return for his sixth Games in Birmingham next summer, part of a 10-person squad named yesterday by Team Scotland that also includes Alex “Tattie” Marshall, Scotland’s most successful Commonwealth Games athlete of all-time, who is returning for a seventh edition.

Burnett is no longer the only sports story in Arbroath, with Dick Campbell’s football team flying high in the Championship, Alan Soutar heading to the PDC world darts championships and tennis star Jonny O’Mara about to compete in the Battle of the Brits event in Aberdeen. And the bowler is happy to see the town on such a high.

“Dick is definitely more famous than me now in Arbroath!” said Burnett. “The town is buzzing at the moment as the team are doing really well. They seem to be a great bunch of footballers, part-time but excellent at what they’re doing.

“The club actually just made me one of their sporting ambassadors in the last few weeks for my achievements in the sport which was great. They’ve also got Alan Soutar from the darts, Euan Murray the golf commentator and Jonny O’Mara the tennis player so it’s nice to be in that sort of company.

“I met Dick at a sportsman’s dinner held at my bowling club just before Covid and that was the first time I had met him. He’s quite a character!”

For a while, Burnett wondered if he would make it all to these Games. Injured in the line of duty this time last year, he suffered a badly broken arm that kept him out of bowls action – and police work – for the first half of the year.  

“From a personal point of view I’ve had a difficult year and I’m still not back operationally because of the injury I sustained last year,” he added.

“I was at work last December when I chased somebody and it didn’t end the way I had hoped. I lost my footing, hit the deck and fractured my left arm in a few pieces. So I owe a lot to the consultant at Ninewells Hospital and the medical team at sportscotland who have been fantastic this year and got me to a position where I was able to compete again.

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“It’s been quite a journey. In the early parts of 2021 I questioned where I would be [next summer] so it’s all thanks to everybody who supported me and got me fit enough to compete again.

“The police have been really supportive, too, and have been ever since Glasgow in 2014. Getting a gold medal then didn’t do me any harm! And they’ve been excellent with me ever since.”

Thankfully the 45 year-old is well on the road to a full recovery and has his sights set on claiming his third gold medal.

“It’s the biggest thing in our sport, the Commonwealth Games,” he added. “You always hope you do enough to get selected as it’s a hard process. We’re fortunate to have a really strong squad of bowlers so when you make the team it’s a great relief.

“It would be great to go there and get a hat-trick of medals. You talk to any bowler and the Commonwealth Games is the top of our sport as we’re not in the Olympics.

“It’s something you always dream of going to and I’m lucky enough to be going to my sixth. The singles gold in Glasgow will forever be etched in my memory as my biggest ever victory.”

There are question marks over whether this might be the final ever Commonwealth Games, with no host named as yet for 2026. Burnett hopes it doesn’t come to that.

“It would be a major loss,” he confirmed. “It would be a massive, massive blow if that happened. It’s our only multi-sport event that we can play in. And it’s only every four years unlike the world championships that are every year. A lot can happen in four years so fingers crossed.”

Team manager Billy Mellors welcomed the 10 bowlers announced in the squad and hoped they would return back over the border laden with medals.

“I am very pleased with our immensely talented team announced today and I wish them every success on the greens at Leamington Spa in July and August next year,” he said.

“The athletes will now enter a period of preparation for Birmingham 2022 involving squad days, venue specific training and test matches to ensure they peak at the right time and deliver medals for Team Scotland.

“Personally, I’m looking forward to working with the athletes and the support staff and I'm certain Birmingham 2022 will be another triumphant Commonwealth Games for our Lawn Bowls team.”