The catalyst – the foundation.
The lead is the key to any successful team, most say you can’t win without a good lead. You may win without one, but I guarantee it’s very hard work or you are very lucky.
The lead is the set up for everything that comes after. A good start for a lead means easier shots and position play for everyone after while a bad start means pressure play and trying to salvage the end for the remaining members.
The lead sets the mat at the length desired and then rolls the jack to the desired length from the mat. As easy as this sounds, having a lead who can roll the jack well is a HUGE advantage. If you need a long end, they can give that to you — If you need a short end, they can do that as well. They are the ones who can make or break a game plan and set the tone for the match by rolling good jacks.
I would say that GOOD leads are a rare commodity that needs to be locked up when found. Normally players start out at lead, get good and progress into other roles. So the good leads often leave and then you may be searching for a new good lead. If you can find and keep a good lead then you have the start to a great team — a good lead is almost always assured a place on any team.
The biggest duty after throwing a jack is getting your bowls near the jack. Most leads think that getting the shot is the most important thing they can do, it isn’t. Getting shot is great, but the true measure of a good lead is how many times they can get their bowl close to the jack (not always ending in shot). The job of a lead is to set up the head for the rest of the team, so even if you aren’t the shot bowl, having second and third shot is just as good as it takes the pressure off the rest of the team. It also helps keep the lost ends to one or less if your lead can get close bowls.
The best attribute for a lead is discipline — having the will and determination to bowl two close bowls, end after end after end despite the opposition getting shot, attacking their bowls and perhaps their team not bowling the best. They need to constantly draw close shots all day long.
I always praise my leads for jobs well done and let them know how well they are doing. It may be the Skip or the Third who gets glory because of some spectacular drives or some amazing draws through traffic, but you really have to know that being a good, consistent draw bowler is just as hard as any other type of shot.
— Parts taken and paraphrased from Evan Tanzer’s article for the Corinda Bowls Club