Bowls community bands together in hard times

L-R Mooroolbark president Neville Roper, executive director Les Hunter. From Upwey Tecoma secretary Les Lane, committee member Jackie Bramwell, and from Mooroolbark Jackie MacKay, Tournament Manager at the cheque presentation in January. Picture: SUPPLIED.

By Mikayla van Loon

After a devastating email scam attack experienced by the Upwey Tecoma Bowls Club saw them lose $118,000 when replacing a green, the community was quick to step in and help.

Understanding the hardship of needing to repair or replace a green, Mooroolbark Bowls Club recently held a fundraising day to support their local rivals and counterparts in the recovery.

With members raising a total $528, the board of directors agreed to match the amount raised, allowing the club to present a cheque of $1058 to Upwey Tecoma in January.

Mooroolbark club president Neville Roper said the idea stemmed from tournament manager Jackie MacKay after she had been speaking with members of Upwey Tecoma during regular play.

“As much as we’re all competitors, we’re all in the same situation, trying to get members and keep our clubs going for the community,” he said.

“It’s just helping someone out in that situation because at any stage, it can happen to any of us and we’d like to think someone would be able to help us if we were in that situation as well.”

Upwey Tecoma club secretary Les Lane said receiving the donation almost a year on was wonderful to know people still care and want to help.

“Every little bit helps, as you could appreciate. So we’re grateful for any donations that come in, especially from the bowling fraternity and we’ve had a fairly good response from the bowling fraternity to be quite honest with you,” he said.

With Monbulk, Lilydale and Knox, as well as the Community Bank and other clubs, each giving what they could to get Upwey Tecoma back on their feet, Les said the club would have nearly half of the lost amount back.

“We won’t recoup it, there’s no doubt about that. It would take us a month of Sundays to recoup $120,000 because we’re only a very small club,” he said.

“We don’t have poker machines. So we rely on people coming along to the club and playing, barefoot bowls, and Jack attack, and hiring the facility from us.

“But the community has been quite good. I mean, to say a lot of people have come to Jack attack and said ‘we’re here because of what happened’. So that’s been encouraging.”

Although not to the same extent, on 25 October 2022, Mooroolbark Bowls Club also experienced flooding of one of its greens, something Neville said “we’re going to have to replace ourselves”.

“We’ve repaired it as much as we can ourselves, but we’ll have to replace that eventually,” he said.

“Upwey Tecoma only has two greens, whereas we’ve got three so we can get by. It’s all fundraising as well, club’s have barefoot bowls and all those sorts of things for extra revenue, so they were struggling with that as well. Having one green not playable makes it very hard.”

While Upwey Tecoma is back up and running, competing and hosting events, the reality of needing to replace the second green is approaching.

“We’ve got about eight years until we have to replace the back green, and that’s going to cost us I would think at current prices about $220,000.

“So we would have been on target had this not happened. But now that it’s happened, we’re probably four or five years behind.”

While donations have slowed, Les said the best thing to do for not only Upwey Tecoma but for all community clubs, is to support barefoot bowls or venue hire.

Keeping that community spirit and support at the heart of bowling clubs across the region, Neville said, is an important part of what they’re established to do.

“All bowls clubs are really community based. We’ve got a few younger people and young players, but the majority would be over 60 and probably 85 per cent of our members are over 70, like most clubs.

“It’s a social outlet for a lot of those types of people in the community. And also different community groups use the clubs for different reasons, for charity days, or fundraising days, and that sort of thing. So we are part of the community.”