Friendly bowls bias

Over the last month, I’ve had one of the best diversions from routine in ages – thanks to the West Launceston Bowls and Community Club.

And I reckon I am just about hooked.

The Club’s Wednesday night “Corporate Bowls” might not be entirely what its name suggests but it’s certainly attracting folk to get out and enjoy some physical activity.

And for those who might be thinking that ten ends of lawn bowls over a couple hours isn’t physical activity worth having, then they might be surprised.

Whilst it is not the only bowls club offering a program like this and not the only sport or recreation adapting from the norm in order to attract more participants, West Launceston is doing it well – and with their own special twist.

Club Secretary, Verna Heazlewood is a gem and judging from the interactions with her throughout each night from bowlers of every age group she’s widely respected for it.

ON the rise: Corporate bowls is proving popular at many clubs for those interested in the game but looking to play in a more relaxed environment. Picture: Leanne Pickett.

ON the rise: Corporate bowls is proving popular at many clubs for those interested in the game but looking to play in a more relaxed environment. Picture: Leanne Pickett.

From the moment each team or player arrives, Verna’s available – making sure you’ve got your bowls which the club provides for those without their own and most importantly that you’ve got a full team of four.

And if you haven’t Verna’s always got a solution. It’s about making everyone’s experience on the night a good one.

But that’s not all. If you haven’t got a clue what you are doing or how the competition’s played, Verna appears from nowhere to sort you out.

But she’s not alone - the other club volunteers making it a pleasure to hand over your weekly fee, sell you a raffle ticket and perhaps mostly importantly barbequing you up a fantastic sausage and onion in bread so you’re not panicking about cooking dinner afterwards.

A mixed crowd: The scene at West Launceston Bowls Club last Wednesday night. Picture: Brian Roe.

A mixed crowd: The scene at West Launceston Bowls Club last Wednesday night. Picture: Brian Roe.

It’s a terrific little package all around and serving a big double whammy purpose – providing an alternate revenue stream for a community based club and getting Launcestonians active.

The Club is a merger of the old South Launceston and Patons clubs and has its pennant programs on Thursdays and weekends.

When development around it closed South Launceston down, some smarting thinking invested the compensation in renovating the merger’s facilities in Merry’s Lane. It’s now a very well laid out and fit for purpose centre which can host events as well as function as a bowls club.

Nostalgia often gets sporting groups into such a bind that hanging on to history prevents progress or sadly now way too often leads to extinction.

Who knows how happy everyone was at the time but right now the decisions made look to have been pretty good ones.

You only have to look at the makeup of the Wednesday night bowlers to see that the corporate concept has touched a nerve or two – in a very positive way.

The age span is vast and there is a huge range of fitness levels. It’s a perfect mix.

One of the most pleasing aspects is the spirit in which the games are played. When the teams of the more experienced are drawn against each other – there’s some real intensity in a beaut kind of way.

But when those teams play the less-skilled there’s no sense of superiority or lack of enthusiasm for the encounter. It’s way more about encouragement – and even joy when the unexpected happens.

Last Wednesday my team mates were detained elsewhere come the time to roll down the first jack. Courtesy of Verna’s recruitment service, I found Cherie, Megan and Kate, three young friends who had come along on spec.

As it happened, despite their professed inexperience we did okay in a most enjoyable encounter with my fellow Examiner columnist Barry, former running colleague Paul and the fractionally more youthful North Esk rowing pair, Angus and Jack.

It’s a perfect example of the type of program that should be embraced – especially in a week when we’ve been told graphically in a Victoria University report that Northern Tasmanians amongst the highest rates of physical inactivity in the nation.