Moving up in the world of bowls

LOOKING AHEAD: Bowls New Zealand vice-president Robin Jefferson is looking forward to promoting the growth of the sport throughout the country. Picture by Liam Clayton

ROBIN Jefferson has played representative sport for 60 years in one code or another. His latest passion is bowls, and now he’s getting ready to be president of the sport’s national body.

In mid-September he started a two-year term as Bowls New Zealand vice-president, after which he will automatically move into the position of national president, and serve two more years.

In both roles, he will be a member of the Bowls New Zealand board. Members meet five times a year in Auckland and confer by telephone between meetings. Over the next two years he, Bowls NZ president Jeanette Sinclair and chief executive Mark Cameron will aim to visit all 27 centres, encompassing the 560 clubs around the country.

Engagement with bowlers and administrators is an area where he feels his experience will help.

Having succeeded at the top level of the sport in New Zealand — and Fiji, where he started playing — and been active in club and centre administration, he can see the game from both playing and administrative perspectives.

Growth in the game of bowls is his prime objective for the four years he has committed to the vice-presidency and presidency of Bowls New Zealand.

“That relates to both club bowlers and casual bowlers,” he said.

“Bowls New Zealand’s target is a 20 percent increase by 2020.”

New Zealand has nearly 143,000 bowlers, made up of almost 38,000 club bowlers and over 105,000 casual bowlers, Jefferson says.

Growth potential

The growth potential is in the casual bowlers.

“We’re finding people don’t want to be tied down to clubs,” he said.

“They want to play for one and a half hours, have a couple of drinks and go home. In 2015/16, Gisborne had 540 people playing bowls as non-members. We have to convert those casual bowlers into club members. If we could get 10 to 15 percent of these people becoming members we would be better off.

“Most people prefer to play from 1pm to 4pm than play all day.

“A championship bowler can play games of two and a half hours, three times a day for two days, and still not be finished. But that’s a competitive bowler.

“We need to get more people wanting to play competitive bowls, and we’ll get them there by looking after them when they come to play the casual game. They have to really enjoy being there. And if they realise they could become capable bowlers, we have to encourage them to do that.

“You have to have the right people coaching.

“If you take that a step further, the people who set the tone for us are the Black Jacks. They won medals in seven out of eight disciplines at the world bowls tournament. You couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Television coverage is vital for the growth of bowls, Jefferson says.

“People like watching bowls on TV, particularly the short, sharp stuff coming in from Australia.”

But clubs provide the game with its “shop window”, and it is important to get that right, he says.

First bowling memories

Jefferson’s first bowling memories are of stopping on his way home from school to lean on the fence of Southland’s Tuatapere Bowling Club and watch the games. He was 10 years-of-age and would score the games based on his assessment of the bowls delivered — good, bad or indifferent.

He first played bowls in 1979 at the age of 38. In Fiji with the Bank of New Zealand (now BNZ), he joined the Suva Bowling Club as a social member so he, his wife Mary and their children had a place to go to socialise. On Sundays they had lunch there, the children would play on a trampoline and he would watch the bowls. Often he was asked to play, but declined.

Then one day a fellow worker brought in a box of bowls he wanted to sell. Robin swooped on them and, at 4.30pm on a Wednesday, took them to the bowling club where he had a “roll-up” for half an hour. Someone asked him if he would like to stay on and play in the night bowls, from 5.30 to 7pm. Afterwards they didn’t believe him when he said it was his first day playing.

“The next night I went down there for a roll-up and a couple of fellows asked if they could join me,” Jefferson said.

“From then on, the competitive instincts took over.”

With Jefferson’s background of representative cricket and rugby, those instincts were well honed.

Within months he was a member of a winning four in club competition, a few weeks later he was half of the winning junior pair at the Suva Bowling Club, and it was not long before he won a club novice singles title.

In 1981 he was on fire, winning six of the 10 singles events he entered in Suva.

National titles in Fiji

In all, he won 10 national titles in Fiji, and in the 1982/83 season he was back in New Zealand and joining the Plimmerton and Whitby bowling clubs. At Plimmerton, he coached players new to the game with such success that members of other clubs joined the sessions, and in 1987 he was appointed coaching director for the Wellington centre.

Along with Mary and their four sons, he came to Gisborne in 1990 when Jefferson became BNZ branch manager. He was soon active in the bowls scene, on and off the greens. He has coached and mentored numerous players, most notably Shannon McIlroy three days a week for two years when the future Black Jack was in his teens.

In his time as president of the Gisborne-East Coast centre, he has promoted the game through radio and newspaper reports and the Mates’n’Bowls social bowls nights at the Gisborne Bowling Club greens.

And the playing side has not been neglected. This month Jefferson, paired with Steve Goldsbury, won his 55th centre title. He has won a national pairs title, been a New Zealand representative to the world indoor finals in the United Kingdom (in 1993) and a North Island representative. He also represented the Wellington and Gisborne-East Coast centres, and competed in national champion of champions singles tournaments and numerous national club championship finals tournaments.

At 76 years of age, he is a member of three Gisborne bowling clubs — Gisborne, Poverty Bay and Kahutia — and says he looks forward with relish to his leadership roles with Bowls New Zealand.

ROBIN Jefferson has played representative sport for 60 years in one code or another. His latest passion is bowls, and now he’s getting ready to be president of the sport’s national body.

In mid-September he started a two-year term as Bowls New Zealand vice-president, after which he will automatically move into the position of national president, and serve two more years.

In both roles, he will be a member of the Bowls New Zealand board. Members meet five times a year in Auckland and confer by telephone between meetings. Over the next two years he, Bowls NZ president Jeanette Sinclair and chief executive Mark Cameron will aim to visit all 27 centres, encompassing the 560 clubs around the country.

Engagement with bowlers and administrators is an area where he feels his experience will help.

Having succeeded at the top level of the sport in New Zealand — and Fiji, where he started playing — and been active in club and centre administration, he can see the game from both playing and administrative perspectives.

Growth in the game of bowls is his prime objective for the four years he has committed to the vice-presidency and presidency of Bowls New Zealand.

“That relates to both club bowlers and casual bowlers,” he said.

“Bowls New Zealand’s target is a 20 percent increase by 2020.”

New Zealand has nearly 143,000 bowlers, made up of almost 38,000 club bowlers and over 105,000 casual bowlers, Jefferson says.

Growth potential

The growth potential is in the casual bowlers.

“We’re finding people don’t want to be tied down to clubs,” he said.

“They want to play for one and a half hours, have a couple of drinks and go home. In 2015/16, Gisborne had 540 people playing bowls as non-members. We have to convert those casual bowlers into club members. If we could get 10 to 15 percent of these people becoming members we would be better off.

“Most people prefer to play from 1pm to 4pm than play all day.

“A championship bowler can play games of two and a half hours, three times a day for two days, and still not be finished. But that’s a competitive bowler.

“We need to get more people wanting to play competitive bowls, and we’ll get them there by looking after them when they come to play the casual game. They have to really enjoy being there. And if they realise they could become capable bowlers, we have to encourage them to do that.

“You have to have the right people coaching.

“If you take that a step further, the people who set the tone for us are the Black Jacks. They won medals in seven out of eight disciplines at the world bowls tournament. You couldn’t ask for more than that.”

Television coverage is vital for the growth of bowls, Jefferson says.

“People like watching bowls on TV, particularly the short, sharp stuff coming in from Australia.”

But clubs provide the game with its “shop window”, and it is important to get that right, he says.

First bowling memories

Jefferson’s first bowling memories are of stopping on his way home from school to lean on the fence of Southland’s Tuatapere Bowling Club and watch the games. He was 10 years-of-age and would score the games based on his assessment of the bowls delivered — good, bad or indifferent.

He first played bowls in 1979 at the age of 38. In Fiji with the Bank of New Zealand (now BNZ), he joined the Suva Bowling Club as a social member so he, his wife Mary and their children had a place to go to socialise. On Sundays they had lunch there, the children would play on a trampoline and he would watch the bowls. Often he was asked to play, but declined.

Then one day a fellow worker brought in a box of bowls he wanted to sell. Robin swooped on them and, at 4.30pm on a Wednesday, took them to the bowling club where he had a “roll-up” for half an hour. Someone asked him if he would like to stay on and play in the night bowls, from 5.30 to 7pm. Afterwards they didn’t believe him when he said it was his first day playing.

“The next night I went down there for a roll-up and a couple of fellows asked if they could join me,” Jefferson said.

“From then on, the competitive instincts took over.”

With Jefferson’s background of representative cricket and rugby, those instincts were well honed.

Within months he was a member of a winning four in club competition, a few weeks later he was half of the winning junior pair at the Suva Bowling Club, and it was not long before he won a club novice singles title.

In 1981 he was on fire, winning six of the 10 singles events he entered in Suva.

National titles in Fiji

In all, he won 10 national titles in Fiji, and in the 1982/83 season he was back in New Zealand and joining the Plimmerton and Whitby bowling clubs. At Plimmerton, he coached players new to the game with such success that members of other clubs joined the sessions, and in 1987 he was appointed coaching director for the Wellington centre.

Along with Mary and their four sons, he came to Gisborne in 1990 when Jefferson became BNZ branch manager. He was soon active in the bowls scene, on and off the greens. He has coached and mentored numerous players, most notably Shannon McIlroy three days a week for two years when the future Black Jack was in his teens.

In his time as president of the Gisborne-East Coast centre, he has promoted the game through radio and newspaper reports and the Mates’n’Bowls social bowls nights at the Gisborne Bowling Club greens.

And the playing side has not been neglected. This month Jefferson, paired with Steve Goldsbury, won his 55th centre title. He has won a national pairs title, been a New Zealand representative to the world indoor finals in the United Kingdom (in 1993) and a North Island representative. He also represented the Wellington and Gisborne-East Coast centres, and competed in national champion of champions singles tournaments and numerous national club championship finals tournaments.

At 76 years of age, he is a member of three Gisborne bowling clubs — Gisborne, Poverty Bay and Kahutia — and says he looks forward with relish to his leadership roles with Bowls New Zealand.

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