Nick Brett of RAF Alconbury recently returned from Australia where he competed in the Tri Series bowls tournament.

Nick Brett of RAF Alconbury recently returned from Australia where he competed in the Tri Series bowls tournament. (Bryan Mitchell / S&S)

RAF ALCONBURY — Nick Brett may keep the water flowing smoothly by day at Alconbury, but it’s his smooth rolling that has made him a top competitor in one of England’s favored sports.

Brett, who works as a plumber for the 423rd Civil Engineering Squadron, recently returned from Australia where he competed in the Tri-Series Classic bowls tournament.

Bowls, a sport that normally straddles the fine line between leisurely pastime and competitive hobby at rinks across the United Kingdom, is played by scores of serious athletes worldwide in fiercely contested tournaments.

“Most of the folks who play bowls are a bit older, but all of the top players in the world are about my age or so,” said the 32-year-old Brett. “When you play two to three times a day, five or six days a week, it does take on your knees and back.”

Bowls is a simple game in which each player rolls four balls toward a smaller white ball that is tossed out first as a target. The goal is to roll one of the four balls closest to the target ball, also called the Jack.

It’s a derivative of a game first played in ancient Egypt that was exported by the Brits to its colonies in the 1600s. It was reportedly even a game fancied by George Washington on his Virginia estate, according to, a Web site about traditional games.

Brett has been playing bowls just a few years longer than he has worked alongside the American military at Alconbury. He began his on-base career at 16 in one of the base stores, and became a plumber after attending trade school.

Three years before he started work here, Brett was called onto the bowls rink by his father in search of another player to round out a team.

“They would be a man down, and he’d pull me in,” Brett said. “It pretty much went from there.”

The hobby grew into a sports obsession that was rewarded with a place on the 24-person England international squad, which plays throughout the British Isles and in some parts of Europe.

“There are a lot of good players out there, and you have to be on your game mentally to separate yourself from the other really talented players,” he said. “Basically, I can’t afford to lose when I shouldn’t.”

Last month he was one of three English players who captured the Tri-Series Classic between England, Australia and South Africa.

There was no prize in the Australia competition, save the satisfaction of bringing home the title of champion.

“For me, it’s not about awards or money, it’s about representing your country as best you can,” Brett said.

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