DIFFERENT ROLL: Nancy Nugent, of Nimbin, tries out ring bowls at the Holdfast Bay club, with advice from one of the game’s enthusiasts.
DIFFERENT ROLL: Nancy Nugent, of Nimbin, tries out ring bowls at the Holdfast Bay club, with advice from one of the game’s enthusiasts.

Adelaide volunteers point the way to flourishing bowls clubs

THE formula for survival of bowls clubs is no secret in Adelaide - nobody gets paid.

From the manager to the barman, apart from the occasional contract greenkeeper, it's all voluntary labour. No pokies, no handouts, no palatial clubhouses. And the clubs are flourishing.

Eighty-three Northern Rivers bowlers have just returned from two weeks of playing at 10 of the many successful clubs there.

Handling meals and arranging games for such an army of visitors must have been a nightmare but the volunteers handled it as expertly and as happily as if they were being paid.

At all of the clubs there was an aura of "this is our club and we're working to keep it".

The tourists found something else that could be a saviour for NSW clubs that close greens or turn them into something they weren't made for. It's called ring bowls.

Never heard of it? It's been played in Adelaide since it started in a carpark in 1927.

In a quiet back lane of seaside Glenelg is the Holdfast Bay Ring Bowls Club. Its green - a square of turf about the size of a small backyard, used to be a chook run. The bowls are doughnut-shaped wooden rings that are rolled on their edge on a 15 metre turf rink to a flat disc that is the kitty.

Get the kitty inside the ring for top points (nobody has done it since the 1940s). Other points are allotted as in lawn bowls for closeness to the kitty.

It's not easy. But it's exciting and it's an innovative form of bowls that could be used on greens that some of our clubs seem to think are superfluous.

The ring bowls are cheap - Nimbin's Bill Nugent has turned one up on his wood lathe - and there's no dress requirements. Not even a logo.

Comment: SA system cheaper and fairer for bowlers

WHILE the age-old cry for a cut-rate category of social bowler goes unheard at top level here, South Australia has done something about it. 

The bustling Marion club in Adelaide - four greens, 270 active bowlers - has what is called a non-pennant bowler. 

He/she (it's all one gender in that state) pay an annual club membership of $100. Those who play pennants pay $225 a year. But there are no green fees and nothing goes to the state.

Compare it with ours, where the state grabs the lion's share of what clubs get from their members. 

To play here, the twice-a-week bowler pays $10 a time or $1042 a year in green fees on top of the club membership.

Makes the South Aussie one-off fee cheap, doesn't it?

The NSW controllers of our game hold on to an unfair slice of the financial cake, regardless of the clubs' struggle to keep their doors open. 

The social bowler who plays only in his own club and has nothing to do with state-run comps, sees money that could be helping his club going to the state and regards it as an unfair impost.

Perhaps this we're-all-right-Jack attitude at the top boils down to the need for a more understanding administration of the South Australian kind, where that state's bowls CEO, Mark Easton, has just been named the Sports Administrator of the Year - a highly prestigious award that takes in every sport in that state.

Young charmers

THE efforts of Alstonville's 14-year-old Conlan twins, Kit and Indi, in the state Rookie finals at Raymond Terrace impressed Bowls NSW Operations Manager Michael Beaumont so much he emailed me with his praise.

The two kids "absolutely charmed the entire Rookies field," he said. "The team that beat them in the semi-final must have felt like Bambi killers.

"The young guys bowled wonderfully well and were incredible ambassadors for the North Coast."

The Conlans won their section by a mile but went down in the semi-final 10-8 to Warilla pair Neil Teasdale/Andrew Ransom who carried on to take the title by a landslide 15-2.

The other Zone One rep in the Rookies finals, Mark Walsh (Grafton), won his singles section but was beaten 17-12 in the semis by Singleton's Dean Traylor who then took the title.

Champion pair out

IN THE champion of club champions pairs state finals at Nowra, Bruce Ashbrooke/Ian Dickenson (South Grafton) went out in the round of 16, beaten 19-14 by a Wagga team.

Close call for Gibson

THE only local in the Country side, Scott Gibson (Ballina), playing lead for former Ballina/Evans Head whiz-kid Aaron Teys, won one game 34-18 but lost the other two 22-20 and 26-18. City won the event 23-13.

As good as new

MY RECENT bowls touring record: three-day visit to clubs on Queensland's Sunshine Coast - rained for three days. No bowls; the NRDBA Tour Group's fortnight playing at 10 Adelaide clubs - in a wheelchair for two weeks. No bowls.

At least my bowls won't get worn out from over-use.

North Coast missing

NO NORTH Coasters in the squad of 16 to undergo special coaching at the Training and Development camp at East Cessnock on December 8-10. Closest we came is Aaron Teys, who notified selectors he was unavailable.