Bowling On by Tony Jensen
Opinion: After a four-year absence, I am back with Bowling On. I gave it up because at the time I was still working pretty much full time and had just been elected deputy mayor, so time did not allow. However the good people of the Manawatu District have since dispatched me to the political scrap heap and I have retired from insurance. Much of my time is now devoted to my sport in various ways and I am delighted to once again provide some insight, news and a little provocation via this column.
I attended the Bowls Manawatu annual meeting on Sunday and the significant change is Vern Sixtus becoming centre president. It will be a two-fold change as Vern will relinquish his current role as centre manager. Lyn Elphick will be vice-president and there are three new executive members in Brian Bismark (Himatangi Beach), Paul Goldsworthy (Woodville) and Greg Oldridge (Takaro) with five other members also returning. I didn’t sense any real impetus for change at the meeting and hopefully Vern’s leadership can provide a platform where change is not only possible, but welcome and easily enacted.
Do we need change? Yes we do. One of my last columns was on November 20, 2013 and was headlined “The facts don’t lie – our game is on the verge of extinction”. I dealt with the fact that men’s playing numbers in the centre (I had no access to women’s historical data) had dwindled from 1992 in the 1990-91 season to 542 in the 2013-14 season.To see where the trend is going, I compared that season to the current numbers and found men’s are back to 464 and women’s have gone from 271 to 222 in the same period.
So we have our problems and I haven’t seen too many initiatives of real change, but all is not lost. I believe country clubs are in good heart and numerous clubs are now sharing their facilities with rugby and soccer clubs, pool clubs and the like. This brings people into the environment and provides welcome revenue. I’m not so sure of the health of the city clubs. There are five fighting for the remnants of a diminishing pie. Until recent times Northern strode the greens like some sort of monolith. Not so today.
We need to also face the fact our representative teams are compromised by the drop in numbers.There is a shrinking pool to pick from, but more importantly a less fierce competitive environment. I’ve put together a gold star of centre titles in the last two seasons but I’m the first to admit that in that 1990-91 environment I probably wouldn’t have one. We had numerous nationally ranked bowlers then. We don’t have any now although our disabled athletes lead their field.
■ It was pleasing to see Bowls New Zealand has answered the call from players and returned national club championships and interclub to a regional playoff format. The previous system of a national tournament was financially crippling for many players.
■ After what seemed like an eternity with Kerry Clark at the helm, Bowls NZ has a new chief executive in Mark Cameron.
He has no background in the sport and I’m not a fan of the modern template that you can move from sport to sport. For all that I wish him well.
■ Hopefully as the season draws closer this column will become weekly.
Please remember though that unless clubs pass on news and teams etc, we will all remain ignorant. Contact me by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.