Two new synthetic bowling greens at the Queanbeyan Bowls Club are heralding a new era for the club which was on the brink of extinction.
The Queanbeyan Bowls Club, whose greens were laid during the Great Depression in 1934, faced the same problems bedevilling dozens of bowls clubs across Australia – dwindling fees from a small and diminishing member base and growing running costs.
However, club president Coral McMurray said the club’s members dug their heels in and moved with the times to first obtain funds to install the two synthetic greens and also attract more members, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You could say we were quite pig-headed about keeping the club afloat,” Mrs McMurray told Region Media. “We’ve always fought hard because we always believed in the future of the club as a very important asset for the town.
“All of those years that people have supported bowls in Queanbeyan are important, but these new bowling greens will encourage new players to take up the game, and as life continues to return to COVID-normal, I know we will see more events held here.”
The club had to restructure to obtain a $230,000 investment from the NSW Government through the Stronger Country Communities Fund, one of many steps the club has taken to ensure its survival.
Six years ago, the Queanbeyan Bowls Club went into administration after green fees were not meeting the cost of upkeep of the five bowling greens.
The administrator, RMS Bird Cameron, sought expressions of interest to partner with the club. The Vikings Group of clubs in Canberra came on board, creating the Queanbeyan Sports and Community Club, and the Queanbeyan Bowls Club became an incorporated body to obtain the funding for the new greens.
“I am also excited about the opportunities this new bowling green will provide to our young and upcoming players,” Mrs McMurray said.
“A number of local schools have expressed interest in making lawn bowls part of their sports program, so it won’t be long before we will see our students giving it their best shot.”
So how do the new greens roll?
“Our older members have been full of praise for the new surface and how it’s rolling,” Mrs McMurray said. “If you’re good enough to put the bowl where you want it, it’s a very true surface.
“We’ve had some who were unsure about the synthetic green, but you’ve got to change with the times and this surface is beautiful and it’s the same as the tennis courts at Queanbeyan.”
Following a few days of solid rain, water has soaked into the low maintenance and all-weather surface but the club is still ready to host its first round of the NSW State Pennants competition, one of the longest-running competitions in the state.
Member for Monaro John Barilaro joined Queanbeyan-Palerang Regional Council Mayor Tim Overall and Queanbeyan Bowls Club members to unveil the new synthetic bowling green.
Mr Barilaro said it is an important boost for the club, which is looking to attract more players and host more events over the coming years.
“This funding has made a dream a reality for the Queanbeyan Bowls Club. This new synthetic bowling green will be a game-changer for the local community, both competitively and socially,” Mr Barilaro said.
Mrs McMurray said the club had increased its membership to more than 130 since the COVID-19 pandemic hit, which has included a steady stream of younger bowlers and social members.
“Our members are very proud of where we are now. I think a lot of people didn’t believe we could get to where we are now and we’ve jumped through a lot of hoops to get there, so you’ve got to feel proud about that,” she said.
“We’re already making huge savings on the amount of water and chemicals going into the greens.
“It means our volunteers and committee have less work to do to maintain the space and our members can enjoy the bowling green at any time. We are very excited to have this much-needed upgrade complete.”
The Queanbeyan Bowls Club is located at the corner of Campbell and George streets Queanbeyan.