Manawatu Bowls News – 19 Feb.

No sooner have National Club Centre titles been decided than we are straight into Champion of Champion events.

I always relish these events which inevitably feature some David versus Goliath contests and there have been some colossal upsets over the years – none more so than when the minnow from the Woodville Club toppled Northern in the mens fours final in the 2007/08 season. The win by John Lawrence and Rob Turner of Ashhurst in the 2003/04 pairs is another that comes to mind. He may not have won it but the late John Harris from the tiny Kimbolton Club came to town in the singles in the same season and got right to the final only to lose to Stephen Love of Te Kawau.

We have seen many upsets throughout the Centre’s season and we can expect more of the same when the singles are played off on Saturday. Often two big names will draw each other first up and after draining each other in a cliffhanger the winner will fall to Nigel No-name next up.

In the mens singles final at Northern on Saturday it was two unfancied players from country clubs who came through to contest the final. You would have got odds of at least 20 to one on either Brian Schischka (Johnston Park) or Scotty McGavin (Bulls) at the beginning of the tournament but the simplicity of bowls is that if you draw closer more often you win!

Schischka has been in the Manawatu six years now but he had not even managed a club title before Saturday’s win. One of the remarkable occurrences was Brian joined wife Robyn in winning the open singles in the same season. Couples such as Viv and Colin Lozell and Sue and Des Meyer have featured in the team disciplines in the same season but singles is something else and I can’t see any other couple who have performed the double in the last 30 years which is as far back as I can cover. If there is such an occurrence someone knows of I would be glad to hear of it.

While nostalging on past greats it is well to remember some of the greater family connections among Manawatu bowlers. The Skoglunds lead the way of course with Phil (the current Old Skog) one the game’s ultimate legends. His father Phillip Oscar and sons Phillip and Raymond along with young Phillip’s son Ryan Khan are all outstanding bowlers and of course other family connections have starred in other Centres. The Sellars were a great dynasty led by Vic and his sister Joyce Osborne and of course another sister Pearl Diamond was a supreme achiever in the Taranaki. Vic’s son Wayne was another topliner and current representative bowler Chris Barrett is a Sellars descendant.

The Galloways are another family of dynastic prominence. Ken and Royce were followed by their children Stan and Sue (Meyer) and the next generation includes Michael Galloway and the Meyers Russell and Ian, all top flight bowlers.

Terry Puklowski and Lyn McLean are brother and sister and more latterly we have had Peter Lambert and daughter Desiree.

Anyone who has other Manawatu strong family connections among our well performed competitors I would be glad to hear from you.

• Palmerston North tell me their “Mates in Bowls” is going very well, attracting 80 to 90 non bowlers each week. The after match turnover and other fundraising opportunities makes it all worthwhile even if it is extra pressure on the members organising. My own Johnston Park club runs a more traditional twilight competition with a mixture of bowlers and non bowlers and 22 fours are lining up each week. These types of competitions have a real place in the game and my personal view is we need to somehow replicate golf’s green fee play as well.

• I am rather sad to report that playing numbers  in The Manawatu have dropped significantly again this season. We now have 862 players compared with 964 last year, 999 the previous year and 1083 in the 2008/09 season. At the current rate of departure the game will be extinct in the Manawatu in 10 years. Palmerston North 184 to 157, Northern 97 to 85 and Johnston Park 101 to 87 have all suffered significantly in the last year while the only clubs to grow were Hokowhitu with an incease of two to 66 and Kimbolton showing an increase of one with 16 members. Where are they all and why? If the baby boomers are supposed to solve dwindling membership where are they? There is no one answer but I personally believe the game still takes too long, some bowlers lack sporting integrity which is off putting and much about the game is unattractive to modern generations. All bowlers have been invited to Bowls NZ roadshows at Palmerston North Bowling Club on 28 March. Players, clubs, centres and Bowls NZ all have to work together to “attract” people to spend their discretionary time with us.

• Long time secretary of our Centre Irene Reilly advised me this week she will be retiring at season’s end. We will farewell her at an appropriate time but anyone who would like to consider this part time paid role please contact me.

• At the close of the National club fours at the weekend Peter Dellabarca spoke on behalfd of the losing team and made an impassioned plea for bowlers to return to the way we used to play, the inference being sportsmanship should come first and questionable tactics don’t belong in the game. I couldn’t agree with him more. Email news to tony.jensen@aon.co.nz

TONY JENSEN

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