Two examples of North Harbour bowls clubs embracing innovation to confront the challenges in a changing weekend and employment environment are the centre’s two biggest, Orewa and Browns Bay.
Orewa is now well into the processes of having in place, perhaps by August, North’s Harbour’s first covered green. And Browns Bay has successfully concluded a merger which enables its facilities to be used by the Browns Bay RSA. “It is working out well,” says club president Jan Harrison. “It’s basically two clubs within one.”
Orewa president Tony Rickerby, who’s also the centre president, says that his club’s covered carpet green will cost $560,000, and that sum has been met for the most part by grants.
He sees the covered green as an asset both for the club and its community but also for the centre.
“I guess Orewa will become the hub of the North Harbour Centre,” he says. “And our players will be able to practise here, wet or fine.”
The rapid population growth on the Hibiscus Coast has accounted in large measure for Orewa’s ability to expand at a time when most sporting clubs are in decline. With close to 300 members, 90% of whom are active bowlers, Orewa is now New Zealand’s biggest bowls club.
It has some of Harbour’s best bowlers, David Eades, Errol Koroi, Walter Howden, Wayne Wrack and Kevin Robinson among the men and Gail Bagnall, a centre gold star holder, heading the women.
Orewa also has a strong “rollup” brigade and at their sessions each Wednesday and Saturday afternoons there are upwards of 60 participants. Every second Tuesday there is a business-house competition which adds to the club coffers as well as being an effective means of recruiting new players.
Orewa soon will cater for more than just bowls, with petanque being added through a merger with the 60-member strong Stanmore Bay Petanque Club. That will still leave room if another green is needed to supplement the club’s present two carpets and one grass green.
Like Orewa, Browns Bay in recent times has had a long record of success. Among its current top players are the likes of Tony Grantham, Rory Soden, Scott Mouton, Scott Evans, Kerry Chapman and Brent Turner and in recent years there have been Colin Rogan and John Walker. Its many fine women players have been headed by Elaine McClintock, Lisa Parlane, Gail Dick, Eileen Shand and Anne Dorreen among others.
Many top events, too, have been held on its three superb Maniototo greens including hosting the national championships three years ago, the Heartland tournament, several centre finals and next month the national “pathways” inter-club competition. Years ago, even before the Harbour Centre was formed, Browns Bay was the venue for the semi-professional competitions sponsored by Lion Breweries.
But president Jan Harrison says the club has been long aware of the challenges for all sports clubs and that has led to radical steps such as joining with the RSA which has accentuated the already social component within the club. And like Orewa, Browns Bay also has business-house bowls and hosts corporate events.
“You can’t afford to stand still,” she says. “So we have always been looking to the future.”
In time that could lead to the Browns Bay Bowling Club being the venue for other sports already operating nearby such as tennis, squash and junior rugby at Freyberg Park and becoming a sort of hub.