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Bowling extravaganza coming up for Browns Bay club

Aidan Bennett discovers an exciting buzz about the future at the Browns Bay Bowling Club who will play host to the prestigious 2014/2015 national tournament in December/January.

The Browns Bay Bowling Club is set to play host to hundreds of bowlers from around New Zealand, and overseas, when it hosts the National Open Championships in late December and early January. This event is sponsored by Heartland Bank.

"We are thrilled to be the host club for this prestigious event," said Browns Bay Bowls Club Chairman Tim Preston when we popped in for a chat at the club in late August. "There could be as many as 1,000 competitors competing throughout the Shore each day. This is the first time in its 101 year history the event has been held on the North Shore and Browns Bay is the headquarters for the event which will involve the club hosting players, spectators, officials, making space available for the chartroom and media, and information, and providing everything else you would expect at a major national tournament."

Preparation is full steam ahead for the event. The day we visited the club, members Simon Rae and John Clarke were putting a brand new sponsors board in place – one of the many improvements that are taking place to ensure the club is spick and span for the event. Although it is not unusual for Simon Rae to be working hard at the club. He was given the Volunteer of the Year Award by Bowls New Zealand (out of all 619 clubs in the country) for the tireless work he does for

local bowls.

An 800 seat grandstand is also to be erected at the Beach Road facility to hold the crowds that will come to watch the action at the Heartland Bank National Open Championships. Preliminary rounds will be held at Browns Bay as well as other North Shore Bowls Clubs, but all the semi-finals and finals will be held at Browns Bay. This will be the Singles, Pairs and Fours – events that will include world class bowlers from around the globe, including the cream from New Zealand and Australia.

Club president, Frank Lockey, says they are focussed on making these the 'friendly nationals' and as the host club, they will be making sure everyone is made welcome and well looked after.

“Planning has been underway for some time and we are well on target to help deliver one of the best national events ever,” he said. "The current pace of entries now coming in points to this being one of the largest nationals for some time."

Club chairman Tim Preston and board member Graham Dorreen are two key members driving the event. They are not hiding their excitement about the months ahead.

"As well as hosting the nationals, we are also launching a tournament called the Heartland Bank Harbour 20,000," explained Graham Dorreen. "This is a new annual Bowls North Harbour flagship tournament which will always be hosted at Browns Bay and will take place in late February, early March of each year starting in 2015. It will be the richest any combination fours tournament in New Zealand with over $20,000 in prize money. It is also expected to attract top players from New Zealand and Australia, with over 200 taking part. As with the Nationals, the club will be a buzz of activity during this event."

Four teams from Australia have already been confirmed and entries from New Zealand are expected to be heavily oversubscribed. The club is thrilled to also have the support of sponsor Heartland Bank for this new event.

The Browns Bay Bowling Club is an impressive facility and is set for a great future. The board, led by Preston, is focussed on being the best in New Zealand. The club was formed in 1943 with the purchase of four sections which make up part of the land the club now sits on. In 1952, some additional land was purchased running through to where the Pavilion now sits. In 1961, the “men” sold some land to the “women” so they could establish their own green and the early facilities were army huts located along the side of the green. In 1975, the Pavilion building was erected and opened. In 2005, after three years of negotiations the two clubs amalgamated to what is now known as the Browns Bay Bowling Club Incorporated which currently has around 350 members.

"We are fortunate to have great facilities," adds Tim Preston. "We are the only bowling club on the North Shore with three grass greens and one artificial green. We have extensive club facilities which are widely used by members and 13 outside community groups. The Pavilion building is also utilised by Bowls North Harbour which runs the whole North Harbour Centre (26 clubs) from here. Due to the quality and number of greens we have, Bowls North Harbour often uses our facilities for its events."

Browns Bay continues to be a big supporter of the New Zealand Blind Lawn Bowling Association. The club has four blind bowling members, one of whom is also President of the national association and the New Zealand coach and selector. One selector also comes from the club.

"Each year, we host a tournament where blind bowlers from all over Auckland compete against teams of good sighted bowlers, including members of the Black Jacks, who are blind folded to even the playing field," says Tim Preston.

Browns Bay hosted the New Zealand Blind Nationals two seasons ago and led the Blind Jacks team to the World Championships in Worthing, England last year. The selector/coach, team manager, and four directors (the people who guide the blind bowlers) all came from Browns Bay.

In terms of playing ability and performance, Browns Bay is one of the top clubs in the Auckland region and arguably, all of New Zealand.  A number of the country’s best players are members, including Wendy Jensen who has 30 centre titles spread across Counties, Auckland and North Harbour, a New Zealand title, and has represented New Zealand, getting a bronze medal in the Fours at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, a Gold Medal in the Fours at the 2003 Asia Pacific Games, and a bronze in the Fours at the 2004 World Games. Wendy has also competed in the world indoor singles twice, coming third once and runner up the other time. The clubs Men’s Fours team (Colin Rogan, John Walker, Brian Wilson and Neil Fisher) won a National title in June in Dunedin; the Women’s Fours were second; Women’s Pairs and Singles were third. This was an outstanding effort as to get to the finals these players and teams first had to win the Bowls North Harbour Centre Championships, then the Regional Championships, before taking on the best from all the other regions throughout New Zealand. They were the only North Harbour teams represented in the championships.

Browns Bay men and women have won more centre titles than any other Bowls North Harbour club – particularly during the last 10 years when the club has competitively been at its strongest.

Tim Preston is excited about the clubs future as it has been endorsed strongly by the sport. "In 2012 and early 2013, a major study of bowls in the Auckland region was undertaken which resulted in a facilities strategy called 'Securing our future – Auckland Region Bowls Facility Strategy', sometimes referred to as the Mowbray Report. This mirrored the National Facilities Report 'Bowls NZ 2020'. The report highlighted that as councils and local bodies sought more space for other sports and recreational activities, it was important that the bowls community recognised this and looked to ensure it had strong, sustainable bowling facilities. The thrust of the Mowbray Report identified that there were too many bowling clubs in the Auckland region, there had to be a rationalisation of facilities, and the region could only support 75 clubs. The exciting thing was that Browns Bay was identified as one with a strong future and has adopted this report as part of its forward strategy and can see itself in the future as a venue which may have multiple clubs operating out of its facilities. This is hugely positive for Browns Bay and the North Shore."

For more information on these upcoming tournaments, club membership or use of the facilities, contact Browns Bay Bowling Club, Phone 478-6952, or email: bbbc@xtra.co.nz, or Visit: www.brownsbaybowls.org.nz. 

by Aidan Bennett

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