He didn't take up bowls until his mid-30s but on the eve of his 50th birthday Brett Pieper is in career-best form ahead of representing Zone 16 at the NSW State Finals at East Maitland Bowling Club.
Pieper has won the past three major singles titles at Figtree RSL and in July upset some of Illawarra's biggest names to win the Zone 16 singles crown.
The singles championship is the most prestigious event at a zone level, with Pieper earning the right to face the other 15 zone champions at the week-long State Finals at East Maitland BC.
"These past 12 months have been pretty special, the best I've had," Pieper said.
"Hopefully I can keep it going and have a good run at the State Finals. It's a huge event, very prestigious and it'd be great to do OK in."
It will be the second time Pieper has played in the NSW State Singles Finals after winning a round for Zone 7 at Cabramatta in 2007.
This year Pieper will face former Warilla and Australian representative Ian Taylor in the round of 16 tomorrow week.
Among the other zone singles champions chasing a state title are Ray Pearse (Alexandria-Erskineville), Ben Twist (St Johns Park), Alex Lee (Roselands) and James Reynolds (Tathra Beach)
In a breakout year, Pieper was selected for Illawarra for the first time since 2008 for the recent Inter-Zone Championships at Blacktown.
Illawarra made the final, losing to Zone 13.
"I had a shocker in the final but it was great to play again for Illawarra and I guess reward for good form," Pieper said.
While his return for Illawarra and winning the Zone 16 singles rate highly in 2013 they're not the personal highlight.
"The absolute standout was playing with my son (Troy) and being able to win the Father-Son event at Dapto Citizens.
"I was lucky enough to win a Father-Son tournament with my dad Don at Port Kembla around 2001, so to have that memory and now play a tournament with Troy was very special."
In an era where kids can learn bowls at school and our top young players are fast-tracked through the Illawarra Development squad, Pieper didn't take up bowls until his 30s, when his rugby league days were over.
Maitland is an old home town from footy days but next week will be his first time playing at East Maitland BC.
Pieper isn't sure why he's done so well as a relative later starter , but is enjoying the ride.