Crackerjack Rocky club in running to be country's best
A WILLINGNESS to embrace innovation and "think outside the square” has Rockhampton Bowls Club in the running for Bowls Australia's Club of the Year.
It is one of only two clubs from the 1860 in Australia in contention for the prestig- ious title, with the winner to be announced at the 2017 Hall of Fame and Awards Night at the Crowne Plaza, Surfers Paradise, on October 26.
Rockhampton is up against Torquay Bowls Club from Victoria, last year's national runner-up.
Club chairman Peter Tyler and long-term secretary Bernie Gottke were the driving force behind the implementation of Jack Attack, a shortened version of the game aimed at non-bowlers.
It had been played south of the border, but was new to Central Queensland.
Instead of a traditional game of bowls played over 21 ends which generally takes three hours, Jack Attack consists of two tiebreak sets of five ends which can be completed in 90 minutes.
The club enlisted two of its enthusiastic young members - primary school teachers Peter Thurecht and Trent Shillington - to organise the event and promote it through their social media networks.
Sixteen teams of three to five members took part in the inaugural event which started in April and was played each Friday night for eight weeks.
Players dressed in colourful costumes and took to the greens, keen to socialise but also to learn the basics of lawn bowls, all to the sounds of a band which pumped out hits from the '80s and '90s.
The event exceeded the club's expectations.
"We didn't have any idea just how successful it would be,” Mr Tyler said.
"The club thought eight teams would be good, given any player affiliated with a club registered under Bowls Australia was ineligible.
"Peter and Trent pulled off the seemingly impossible with 16 teams registering for the inaugural tournament.
"The atmosphere on the greens was something we hadn't experienced before.
"The players had a great time, the band was sensational and we even had a couple of noise complaints.”
Mr Gottke remembers the reaction of one visitor who was passing the club on one of those Friday nights.
"He said 'I saw you all in there having a great time, I heard the band going and I had to look twice to check it was a bowls club',” he said.
"We actually had a lot of visitors drop in and they thought it was great.
"I think there is a perception that bowls is an old person's sport and anyone playing gets around on walking sticks and there's no joy in it.”
Mr Gottke said the club was keen to prove that a myth and he was quick to point out that the average age of the Australian bowls team was younger than that of the Australian cricket team. "It's mainly thinking outside the square and being innovative and willing to give something a go,” he said.
"They say a lot of clubs in Queensland and Australia have folded because a lot of their older members believed that traditional bowls is all you could play.
"They didn't get involved in different things but that's something we're prepared to do and it's really paying off for us.”
The club also put its hand up to be involved in the Bowls Premier League, which is televised on SBS and also ensures its name features on the Bowls Australia calendar.
Mr Tyler recalled he was out shopping when he got a call from a Bowls Queensland director to tell him the club was in the running for the national honour.
"I said 'that's great', thinking there would be one from each state or something like that,” he said.
"It was only in the latter part of the conversation that it was revealed we were one of only two.
"I couldn't believe it. It was quite a shock.”
Mr Gottke added with a broad smile: "It really is remarkable when you think the worst we can do is be the second best in Australia. That's pretty fair.”
The club which overlooks the Fitzroy River was opened in 1912, has only one green and is run entirely by volunteers.
Mr Tyler said it was exciting to be considered among the country's best.
"It's a great honour to be recognised for what we're doing, and it will be full steam ahead now.
"You've got to go forward; there's no point beating your head against a brick wall.
"Hopefully it will help some members of the club realise that the direction we're going is the right way to go.
"We will turn the club into a fantastic place to come and play and promote the game of lawn bowls.”
The Rockhampton Bowls Club opened on September 14, 1912
On January 9, 2000, it became the first club in Queensland to change from a green to a roofed green gauge carpet green
It has 106 male, 60 female and about 15 social members