One of the big success stories in North Harbour bowls over the past decade has been the major tournament for newer bowlers which the Milford club has now successfully staged for eight years.
Launched when Tim Preston and Graham Dorreen were club members, the Milford 5000 has become a major attraction not only for Auckland and North Harbour bowlers but many from other parts of New Zealand.
The tournament originally was for bowlers in the one-to-five year category, but that has now been amended to allow for the inclusion, if desired, in each team of just one player who in his or her one-to-eight year.
With generous sponsorship from Harcourts, the total prize money is $5000, of which the winning team, which this year was Point Chevalier, received $1500. But one of the big advantages of the Milford 5000 is that over the two days it has a plate section as well as a championship so keeping everyone’s interest until the final bowl.
This year a Milford team of Jan Hutton, Don Whitley and Murray Wallace, won the plate, while another Milford line-up of Robbie McGrane, Rick and Lyn Calver also did well, finishing fifth of the 30 teams in the championship.
Comparatively young for a sport club, having started only in 1984, Milford has always shown a flair for innovation and early in its history in 1991 staged a national triples competition which was won by a Paraparaumu trio skipped by former test cricketer Peter Petherick.
While the 5000 has become the jewel in its crown, the Milford has continued to thrive despite all of the modern challenges. Its membership exceeds 100is in excess and with housie, indoor bowls and twilight tournaments it has, says president Ian McKenzie, a vibrant social atmosphere.
A one-time marathon runner, McKenzie has become a firm advocate for bowls’ merits. “Initially, I thought it would be too slow for a marathon runner,” he says. “But it is a great sport which suits people of all ages, male or female, big or small, young or old. Everyone is equal as bowling is a precise art of line and weight.”
Another Harbour club enjoying a boost this season has been Glenfield, which has had an influx of top women’s bowlers headed by the return of Lisa Helmling from Birkenhead and the arrival from Auckland as dual members of Denise Samuels and promising national development bowler Paris Baker.
Though Glenfield in the past has had top women’s bowlers like Helmling, Carol Frederick, Ruth Lynch and Keryl Blackburn, these were lost to bigger clubs and for some years, though not officially, Glenfield was effectively a men’s only club.
Founded only in 1958, Glenfield now has about 40 members, nine of them women.
Though small in numbers, Glenfield has always been strong in quality with a number of top bowlers, including national champions Kerry Chapman and Tony Grantham, former members. It remains competitive with Stuart McKenchie and Peter Kamana winning the centre champion of champion pairs title in 2016.
One problem for Glenfield is that is truly a “working” club, with few of its members retired and even few retirement villages nearby. And plans to switch the club’s green to Maniatoto are presently on hold through prolonged negotiations over extending the club’s lease.
But vice president Rick Bragger emphasises the club is in good heart. “We’re a good family club where everyone treats each other as equals,” he says.