• Loddon Herald

Community bowls along


WE’RE not playing for sheep stations ... the first words you hear when entering the Bridgewater Bowling Club.

It’s a Wednesday evening and bowls of all colours are being rolled down the green by players is the most casual of attire.

Bright shirts, work shorts and shirts, hats and caps with as much character as a Steve Waugh baggy green.

Bare feet, thongs and runners walking on the greens, mixing with the customary flat-soled white or brown bowling shoes.

And these bowlers are all ages, from Bridgewater, Campbells Forest, Inglewood, Newbridge, Arnold and Serpentine.

This is the Loddon Shire’s event of the year. Bridgewater twilight bowls with 48 players in teams of four last week and at least half as many again sitting on the sidelines enjoying a community evening together.

Volunteers like Jan Broadbent, wife of club president Rae, making sure the barbecue and other eats are finding their way to bowlers, central Vic-torian sporting stalwart Barry McNaught dispensing cool, hydrating refreshments from the bar.

This year’s Australia Day award came a decade after twilight bowls started.

President Rae Broadbent says 70 per cent of the club’s current membership has been “recruited” through twilight bowls.

“It started when Ian Ball was president with the idea of

financially helping the club but also to try and recruit new and younger members to an ageing and diminishing membership,” he said.

“The enjoyment and social interaction of the teams has seen a great injection of fun and communications across various businesses, social groups, families, neighbours and districts in and around

Bridgewater, particularly in the drought and flood years.”

It has been only the 2011 flood that put a temporary stop to twilight bowls when water 1.5 metres deep went through the clubhouse and swamped the greens.

Support from Loddon Shire Council, State and Federal Governments and Inglewood Bendigo Community Bank saw club facilities return to use, improved and enhanced.

Rae says the weekly annual event running through February and March is a “great chance to talk and laugh and ease stress”.

When he accepted the award last month, Rae also thanked fellow twilight bowls committee members - wife Jan, Don Wilson, Fred Shea, Jenny Hosking and Glen Mangan.

Rae says there’s always laughter and chatter across the rinks.

“It’s an inclusive event giving all age groups a chance to be involved and interact,” he said. “It provides a learning experience for non-bowlers ... and for our experienced bowlers to mentor these learners. It really is wonderful to see the grandchildren playing alongside their grandparents.”

That caring guidance permeated the atmosphere at Bridgewater last week.

A bit wide ... a bit more weight on your next bowl ... not so fast letting go ... yes, that’s pretty good.

Currently some bowls clubs in the Loddon are a bit light on for numbers and combine to field pennant teams.

It’s about keeping communities and people connected.

As Rae Broadbent says, apart from netball and football, bowls is one of the only other gatherings of the size where local people can come together.

Lawn bowls, as an sport, is said to have been around since the 12th century.

The enthusiasm of the Loddon’s event of the year should see the game keep bowling on.

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