In neighbourhoods around the country, a quiet revolution is under way. People of all ages are meeting up to share a joint love. From latte loving hipsters, to those with hip replacements. And from the seriously committed, to those just after a lazy Sunday sesh.
Yes, lawn bowls is the new black. Sure, it’s been around forever, but it’s come into its own with the growing movement towards slowing down and enjoying things in life that can’t be rushed. But that’s not to say a high level of skill isn’t required to pursue bowls at the elite levels of the sport.
Bowls arrived in Australia along with the first migrants and the earliest officially recorded game was in 1845. Over 170 years later participation continues to grow and the profile of the sport is rising, thanks to The Bowls Show on SBS and Fox Sports covering major competitions.
At a national level the Bowls Premier League competition boasts eight teams and the annual Australian Open is now the world’s biggest bowls festival. Held on the Gold Coast each June, over 2500 people from across Australia and around the world participate.
Bowls Australia also has two elite High Performance squads, who represent Australia on the international stage. The top-tier Australian Jackaroos and the second-tier Australian Emerging Jackaroos squads are gearing up for the 2020 World Bowls Championships being held in on the Gold Coast. While preparations are also well underway for the next Commonwealth Games to be staged at Birmingham, England in 2022.
Bowls Australia CEO Neil Dalrymple is vocal about the fact that bowls is a fun and accessible sport for people from all walks of life. “Bowls is a great low-impact and socially inclusive sport that’s easy to play, very affordable and can be enjoyed by people of any age,” said Mr Dalrymple.
“It’s one of the few sports that can feature three generations of the one family playing competitively in the same team and at the highest level of competition.
“It’s also easily modified for people with impairments or disabilities. In fact, we currently have a national Para-Sport team - inclusive of multi-disability and vision-impaired players - touring the UK with the Jackaroos and competing for full medals at the Commonwealth Games.”
For weekend warriors there’s barefoot bowls and also a Jack Attack competition featuring a social, fast-paced format for non-regular bowlers. Schools are also signing up young fans with a Jr. Jack Attack Program designed to give kids a chance to participate in a fun and inclusive manner, without the need for a bowling green. At the other end of the spectrum, Bowls Australia has initiated a Roll Back The Clock program to encourage physical activity, socialising and mental wellness for over-65s.
So, if you’ve always wanted to represent your country in the sporting arena, bowls is a sport with very few barriers to participation. Plus with over 1,800 clubs around the country, the chances are that there’s a bowling green in your neighbourhood – but with over 600,000 participants nationwide the competition could be steep.
Australia’s elite Open and Para-Sport squads are currently touring the United Kingdom for almost two weeks playing tests against Ireland, Scotland, Wales and England.
Stage and Screen is proud to work closely with Bowls Australia managing their corporate and High Performance travel requirements and we’re thrilled that they were the recent winners of our Virgin Australia competition – picking up a $10K travel credit with the airline. Neil said the organisation plans to put the prize towards providing more opportunities for grass roots participation and to raise the profile of the sport.
Accepting the winning cheque are (left to right): Marc Peacock (S&S), Steve Ebbage (S&S), Shaun Matheson (S&S), Andrew Gommers (BA) Neil Dalrymple (BA), Wonitta Atkins (S&S)