TOP bowler Paul Sigsworth will be “sadly missed and never forgotten”.

That was the tribute from Yorkshire Crown Green Bowling Association chiefs Chris Hasselby (president) and Alan Stephenson (chief executive) as they prepared for Sigsworth’s noon funeral today at Parkwood Crematorium, Elland.

Winner of 165 competitions in a glittering career – including four Huddersfield Merits, three Champion of Champions and the Waterloo Spring Handicap at Blackpool – Sigsworth died aged 47 after a seven-month battle against cancer.

It robbed the sport of a fantastic player and a thoroughly decent man.

His own records revealed 82 appearances for Yorkshire (won 58, lost 24) from his debut in 1992 up to June last year, and he captained the home and away sides on many occasions.

A stalwart of the Griffin winter bowling club in the Colne Valley, he also made several appearances for England in the British Crown Green Bowling Association annual international series.

Yorkshire’s Hasselby said: “Impressive as these figures are, and they are impressive, surprisingly Paul only won one Yorkshire competition, fittingly the Yorkshire Mixed Pairs with Carron as his partner last year.

“He came close to winning the Yorkshire Merit in 2000 losing in the final to G.I.Wilson. He was, however, recognised as one of the best County bowlers of his era, not only in Yorkshire, but throughout the BCGBA.”

He added: “There was more to Paul than his actual playing record. It was no accident that he was selected as captain of the County side so many times. His quiet, but decisive, leadership qualities and the respect in which he was held by other County bowlers made him an easy choice.

“Paul was never too big a bowler to disregard the less talented bowler; he was always willing to offer advice and support and many who took the trouble to listen, watch and learn from him, now find themselves better bowlers and, in some instances, in or close to the County side. This is a legacy of which we are sure Paul would be proud.”

He added: “Paul bore his illness with impressive dignity, but in his dying our thoughts and condolences must now be with his mother Margaret, brother Graham and partner Carron, whose love and devotion to him during his illness is a credit to her and an example to us all.”

A team man despite his individual prowess, he won the Slawit & Golcar Cars Huddersfield League Subscription Cup title six out of the last seven years with Netherton Conservative Club, and the KP Motors Colne Valley League six times with Slaithwaite C&BC.

Huddersfield Association president Gerald Sykes said: “He was my best mate and, with Paul being a massive Tottenham fan and me Arsenal, we had many happy hours of banter and never once fell out.

“When he was out and about working for Metro, I used to see him all over the place and we’d always have a quick natter. He was a top-class bloke.”

His tally of 80 wins at the Griffin is unlikely ever to be beaten – he was proud to twice win the memorial event in honour of his father, Bernard – and the club president, Alan Hirst, said: “Paul will be pretty much impossible to replace.

“He was very dedicated, probably practising more than all the other members put together, and he never gave in during a match. He didn’t expect any favours from opponents and he didn’t give them any either.

“He was always willing to help players coming through, though, and while he was our most prolific winner himself, he took great pleasure in the successes of those he helped, like Jack Dyson whom he thought an awful lot of.”

Griffin secretary Frank Greenwood said: “Siggy was, without doubt, crown green bowling’s most successful and prolific winner in the Huddersfield and District.

“Also at the Griffin and through his England and County appearances he was well known throughout Yorkshire and the County bowling communities”.

While at the top of bowling, Sigsworth was also a respected footballer with the all-conquering Brackenhall United side in his younger days – spending 17 years at the club.

John Foster knew him well and said: “Paul was born in Brackenhall and truly proud of it.

“His first encounter with football was as a lad when he used to watch his local team. At 18 he joined that team and played only for one other Saturday club, Sovereign Sports, in his twilight years.

“He was frequently approached to join other clubs playing in higher leagues and there is no doubt that he was more than capable, but Brackenhall was where his roots were and that is where he chose to stay.

“His time with the club led him to records that are unlikely to be broken. Nine District League Division I titles, three Barlow Cup winners’ medals and three Huddersfield FA Cup winners’ medals came his way and he managed his beloved club to another Division I Championship.”

Foster added: “He also played Sunday football and yet again his loyalty never waned. He started with the Waggon & Horses who later changed their name to Sikh Temple, and won a total of 27 medals.

“He was especially proud of Brackenhall and it can be said that Brackenhall was proud of Paul Sigsworth.

“This is best illustrated by recalling the time when our local councillor, Jean Calvert – Mayor at that time – invited him to open the newly refurbished Brackenhall Community Centre, which he considered a great honour.”