The world will only ever have one image of Nick Brett, ‘the Brad Pitt of lawn bowls,' writes Tom Harle.
For a fleeting moment Great Yarmouth became the centre of the universe as millions chuckled along with an audacious 47-year-old civil servant.
Brett has played bowls for 34 years and rolled to the jack on millions of occasions, but only one will ever be remembered, an immutable moment of sporting perfection.
“I’ll always be known as that guy that played that bowl, I’m sure,” said Brett, “and I’ve not got a problem with that at all.”
He is the man who threw the shot heard round the world - the most famous bowl of all time - at the 2020 World Indoor Championships.
It was seen by a million people in a day and remains evocative on a rewatch, transporting us to the very different world we lived in two years ago.
In the world pairs final, Brett and Greg Harlow led Scotland’s Paul Foster and Alex Marshall 5-4 in the first set after six ends.
The jack was surrounded by three red bowls on the left side, leaving Brett with a six-inch gap.
“There is just room!” yelled Harlow, with perfect comedic timing that helped send this moment stratospheric on social media, Brett and the crowd laughing in unison.
The rest was history and mystery as the world marvelled at Brett’s ability to pierce the gap and kiss the jack full on the lips.
“It was a good bowl,” said Brett, who is asked about the moment virtually every day.
“I’ve seen people play better bowls but coupled with the crowd’s reaction, the commentary, the whole package made it something worthwhile.
“You can do it in practice quite a lot and I’m sure quite a lot of the players do. The pressure is to do it in front of the TV cameras at the big events.
“Is it the best bowl ever played? No. Is it the best bowl I’ve ever played? Probably not. But with the whole package, it’s something people can relate to.”
Brett was invited onto the One Show sofa to chat Alex Jones through the moment - but couldn’t make it because he had another match to play at the World Championships.
That is the measure of a man who is modest but secure in the knowledge that he is the most devastating draw bowler in the world.
“The thing people don’t know is that Alex played a better bowl, under pressure, in the last end of the second set,” said Brett.
“How that bowl is judged differently to mine, I have no idea. It wasn’t even the best bowl I played in that game. The next bowl was a more important bowl than that one.
“If I don’t play the next one as well as I do, Alex can take the ‘wonder bowl’ out and we lose the set. No-one speaks about that.”
LIFE AFTER THAT BOWL
Brett’s life since then was never going to follow a perfect arc, unlike the shot that made him famous.
He was forced to withdraw from the 2021 staging of the World Indoor Championships due to an injury sustained while playing golf.
Brett bounced back that winter, completing the set of British titles with singles victory at the rearranged National Championships.
He is spoken of with uncommon reverence by team-mates, including para counterpart Craig Bowler who joins him on Team England for Birmingham 2022.
“I’ve looked up to Nick for a long time,” said Bowler. “You speak to him and he’s just a normal person, it’s phenomenal. He’s like Brad Pitt in the film industry.”
Brett has another opportunity to go viral, at Victoria Park in Leamington Spa this summer at the Commonwealth Games.
He has shown us bowls at its most beautiful but he is prepared to win ugly in the quest for a first Games medal.
“A Commonwealth gold medal would be the best feeling,” said Brett. “If we play great bowls along the way, that will add to it.
“But if we play some rubbish ones, that will happen and all that matters is who gets that gold medal at the end of the event.
“You have to find a way to win in all circumstances because it’s not always pretty sometimes.”
The dream, for all those in the sport and out of it, is for another ‘wonder bowl’ this summer.
“People play because of who and what they see on TV,” said Brett.
“If another bowl at the Commonwealth Games is worth that sort of publicity, I don’t mind who plays it because it’s all good for our sport. We need to put ourselves out there.”