Lloyd Sinton, a 72-year-old member of the Browns Bay club, has been playing bowls for little more than a year, but already is well on the way to gaining almost legendary status in the North Harbour centre.
For Sinton is a vivid illustration of one bowls’ greatest attributes as a game that can be played to a good level by all ages, all shapes and sizes and, above all, by those like Lloyd who have severe physical handicaps.
Lloyd has endured many injuries and consequent illnesses that would have many others confined permanently to a wheelchair. Yet in just 12 months he has achieved, albeit with a bowling arm, a record of which any able-bodied bowlers with years of experience would be proud.
Browns Bay president, Pete Sheehan, one of Lloyd’s chief bowling mentors, describes his exploits as “nothing short of astounding”.
Some of his deeds at high profile events in recent months have left gobsmacked even the most hard-nosed bowling judges. In early October he and Browns Bay club secretary Lin East made the final of the Senior Trust New Zealand Masters 60-74 mixed pairs, losing only on an extra end to two of Harbour’s most decorated bowlers, Bart Robertson and Elaine McClintock.
He then won the plate final at the national para championships in New Plymouth, with one of his wins over the eventual champion, Commonwealth Games representative Graham Skellern.
That was followed by perhaps his greatest deed to date. With Sheehan skipping and with a fifth-year bowler Craig Lane, he was in a Browns Bay triple which made the final of the Dick Bree centre championship.
Though losing, the Browns Bay triple put up a gallant display before losing to Helensville’s Robertson and two other accomplished bowlers, Ricky Howe and Carlton Barnett.
Lloyd’s troubles which have left him severely crippled began in his early twenties. He was a promising rugby fullback, who had represented Auckland secondary schools with future All Blacks Ken Carrington and Bruce Gemmell, as well as being an excellent badminton player.
Playing for the Waitemata club, he miscued trying to crash tackle an opponent which resulted in a major skull operation and other complications leaving him partially paralysed.
Then a few years later he was in a vehicle hit by a drunken driver, cracking his neck and being left in a collar for six months. An aftermath of all this has been an onslaught of severe arthritis.
Before he found bowls Lloyd found recuperation in firstly joining Achillies, an international group promoted in New Zealand by Peter Loft, described by Lloyd as “a magic guy”. This focussed on the disabled regaining mobility, and resulted in Lloyd doing water walking and walking half marathons and even a virtual version of the New York marathon.
He was persuaded by a work client to try bowls in a Browns Bay business-house competition and after troubles even trying to hold bowls he was encouraged by club stalwarts Frank Lockey and Dennis Bawden to use a bowling arm, which he has had especially modified in Australia.
Like most who take to bowls in later life Lloyd regrets not trying it earlier. But making up for lost time is one of the reasons he now enjoys the game so much. He attributes any success he has had to using his brain, commenting wryly, “I don’t have much else that works”.
Besides his club mentors he thanks the support of his wife, Debbie. “Without her I would be history,” he says.