More than just a bowls club

August 19, 2017

FCJ College and Sacred Heart College Tokyo students play bowls together under the tutelage of Benalla Bowls Club members.

A lot of your group’s work goes unnoticed around the club. What kind of things does the group do that others wouldn’t know about?

A few years ago we all kind of grouped together and started looking after the wonderful group from Yooralla.

This came about after a meeting between Yooralla, ValleySport, Bowls Australia, and Bob and Graham.

They devised a program for those with disabilities and this program has been running every Thursday since at the club.

From this program, we also outlined a program for Ed Space, using bowls for maths, once again successful, after this program the kids from Ed Space baked us all a large jar of Anzac biscuits.

Since then schools have come on-board — St Joseph’s came over, sending 80 students over a period of time.

Now FCJ have also started to come, led by vice-principal Joseph Mount.

When we got that program under way he sent us a letter across with all the students’ names on it, to thank us for what they had done and how they had conducted themselves.

It has continued on with Julianne Richardson organising sessions at the club through Graham, just like the vice-principal did, they have even set a special shield to be played for — the Benalla Bowls Club/ FCJ College Shield.

We also put on special days for people with mental illnesses, again phone calls to Graham, who organises all of that.

The Today Tomorrow program have also been coming to the club twice a year.

We do the Ugly Bartender Day, fundraising for leukaemia research, which has been going for three years now.

That’s a lot of programs to be running at the club, you must have little time to do your own bowling?

Well actually along with all of that, we will be running the Get Fit on the Green program for people with disabilities, for the second year running.

The program was put together by ValleySport, Yooralla, Bowls Australia, Bob and Graham. Some 60 plus people attended last year, and we’re expecting more than 70 this time round.

We put on a barbecue with sausages and patties and what have you, and they just love it, it’s truly a highlight on our calendar as well as theirs.

Bob also chases sponsorship for the clubs events, while Graham looks after the media side, the website, and is also secretary of the Ovens and Murray Bowls Region, plus secretary and treasurer of the 60 and over North Eastern Bowlers Group.

The great thing about bowls is that anyone with any ability can play — is that how you feel about the game as well? Is it great to have these groups of people involved with the club?

Yes definitely. There’s absolutely no difference between us, the organisers of the events, and the people that come along to them, like the folk from Yooralla.

Some of them are really fantastic bowlers now. They just know where all the stuff is, the bowls and mats, they bring them out and before you know it they’ve got their own games going and bowling away.

The kids coming down from the schools is great, too. But I’d have to say the highlight for us is hosting the disability games.

The sheer delight you see on their faces when they have a good bowl or win a game is just magic.

And actually some of the FCJ College kids will be coming down for that one to help us out with the barbecue and things on the day, we didn’t ask them to, but they’ve offered to help us out, which is great really.

You guys obviously love the club here. So what’s so special about the Benalla Bowls Club in particular compared to others, and how long do you think you’ll be a part of the club?

Bet will be here until we have to remove him in a coffin I reckon.

The rest of us will be here till we have to be carted off the greens too I think.

The nice thing about this club is the freedom to try new things, like the fund-raisers and getting the kids from the local schools down to teach them — that kind of thing.

And what do you do outside of bowls and the club?

Gail quilts, she’s a marvellous quilter. Bob is into his gardening, so he’ll do that at his house or here (at the club).

Bet reckons if he’s not here playing bowls, he’ll be at the bar socialising and having a drink.

Graham is a volunteer at BPACC on Saturday nights, volunteering at the shows, his wife is also a volunteer, she does Meals On Wheels and volunteers at the Red Cross Shop.

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