Commonwealth lawn bowls men’s singles champion Aaron ‘Disco’ Wilson reveals why he put on his lucky undies but ripped off his shirt at the Gold Coast Games. By Cindy MacDonald.
Green power: Aaron Wilson, 26, lawn bowler
My nickname’s “Disco”. When I was 18, 19, 20 I used to love going out to nightclubs, hence the name. Now I’m getting to the stage where I’m not as interested in the nightlife scene, and I’ve got a lovely girl as well and other commitments coming through.
I’ve got a pair of lucky undies that I always bring out for the bigger occasions. They’re silver and black Alphas. I’m not super superstitious but every time I get an opportunity, I’ll whack ’em on for the big times. During the competition I’ll wear different ones but keep the special undies for the final. They sort of became part of my preparation as well. There are 10 things on the checklist before it all happens and they’re one of the things. I feel they give me a bit of an edge.
I didn’t plan it [to rip my shirt off after winning Commonwealth Games gold], but Kelvin Kerkow did it back in 2006 and I was sort of overwhelmed in the moment and the shirt just came off. If the opportunity comes to another Aussie to get the Commonwealth Games singles gold – whether it’s me or someone else – hopefully the legacy continues and they’ll be ripping their shirt off, too.
The experience at the Comm Games with the atmosphere and the best athletes in the world and the village – just being part of it has definitely given me memories that will last forever.
My brother got me into bowls when I was about 10. I played football and cricket at that stage and eventually it came to a point where everything was on Saturdays and my whole family played bowls so I thought, “Well, I’ll stick with it for now”, and then one thing led to another and I started to pick up a couple of small titles and since then it’s just been a big awesome journey.
Friends were always very respectful [of my decision to give up other sports for bowls] and I think they were a bit intrigued and wanted to come have a go. When you first look at bowls it looks easy, but once you put a few down you find out it’s actually quite hard, so a few of my mates came down for a bit of a roll from time to time.
Nowadays there are a lot more junior bowlers coming through the system, and also publicity for the game is growing. We’re going round to schools and exposing kids to it with Jr Jack Attack, which is great. The more people involved in the sport can only mean it gets better and better.
I’m originally a country boy from St Arnaud [Victoria] and moved to Bendigo for bowls, then down to Melbourne, and eventually up to Sydney where I play with the Cabramatta club now.
My role at Cabramatta is as the high performance coach. It’s a very professional club so that’s been an awesome experience. The people I coach have really embraced me, and I’ve embraced them – we’re seeing it in the results as well. We’ve got a pretty good list of players at the club – Karen Murphy, she’s a world champion, Comm champion as well, and guys who have played for Australia before. It’s a very exciting place to play bowls.
It is a game of millimetres. You can be off by half a mil and it’ll cost you the game. But as long as you feel that you’ve done your best you walk off a winner regardless, so you try not to give yourself too much pressure when the heat’s on, just go through the process as normal and just step up to the plate.
The nerves are always there; I guess it’s how you embrace those nerves. Guys I’ve played with have really taught me how to handle that better and better over the years and when I first started playing for Australia I played with Brett Wilkie and obviously he was a lot older and he really nursed me through the system.
A lot of it is about getting your mental game strong as well. That’s something that takes a bit of time. Breathing patterns are really important to calm yourself down. If you can keep in control of the things you can control and stay in a good mind frame in the lead-up to putting down the bowls, then you are going to give yourself the best opportunity to produce the shot, rather than worrying, If I miss the shot, I’m going to lose.
I’ve always got a little DJ in my head and a song playing, sort of like a game remix. The one that’s in my head at the moment is Imagine Dragons’ “Whatever It Takes”.
I’m just playing year by year, but I’d love to go on playing for as long as I can. The gold medal’s on the wall at the moment at the house – it’s been awesome to enjoy the win with my mates and I’m stoked. The journey’s been pretty cool.
This week’s highlights…
• Lawn bowls: Australian Open
Saturday until June 22, Gold Coast
• Basketball: NBA Finals, game 4 – Golden State Warriors v Cleveland Cavaliers
Saturday, 11am (AEST), Quicken Loans Arena, Cleveland, Ohio
• Horseracing: Stradbroke Day
Saturday, 1st race 11.45am (AEST), Doomben Racecourse, Brisbane
• Tennis: French Open – women’s and men’s singles finals
Saturday and Sunday, 8pm (AEST), Roland-Garros, Paris
• Soccer: Socceroos v Hungary
Sunday, 1.30am (AEST), Groupama Arena, Budapest
• Cricket: Australia v England, 1st ODI
Wednesday, 10pm (AEST), The Oval, London
This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Jun 9, 2018 as "Green power".
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