It’s the mid-90s in the suburbs of NSW and a 14-year-old is sitting outside the bowls club, waiting for his dad. He grumbles at the dress code to wear all whites and “pull your socks up”. Which is why Boyd Dumbrell aka the ‘Happy Bowler’ only played lawn bowls for a year after being introduced to the game by his dad.
“I played for 12 months and I was embarrassed,” Boyd said.
“My school teacher knew and he played as well and it just wasn’t cool” he said.
How things have changed. Today, Boyd Dumbrell , 39, or Happy Bowler as he’s known these days, puts a lot of energy into gearing up for some time on the green. He puts on his uniform, and, as always it is punctuated with bright suspenders and a bow tie. For special events, he may don his bowls earrings for the ultimate contrast to his Chopper moustache. He laughed when we asked about how he thinks the blokes at the club, who saw him as a teenager when he played bowls for the first time, would react seeing him now.
“I’d say that they would have a heart attack!” he said.
“My look takes in the old school with the new school.
“Who wears suspenders and a bow tie?”
As the Happy Bowler, Boyd wants to evoke the fun and excitement he felt as teenager playing bowls.
“It all goes back to when I was an excited 14-year-old meeting all the good players,” he said.
Whether it’s interviewing some of bowls’ greatest with his Happy Five questions or showing his sound FX filled live-streams, people love the Happy Bowler. Through his tagline of “Anyone can play”, he wants to show that bowls is no longer the stuffy sport it was back in his day.
“Look at the Australian side – they’re all just young blokes,” he said.
“Bowls has competitiveness, mateship, and you can play until whenever.
“It’s not just an old person’s sport anymore.
“You can start young and keep playing bowls till you’re 100!”
Gathering over 1,500 Facebook followers in eight months, the success has been unprecedented for Dumbrell. He wants to be a bowls personality that people can enjoy watching and following. Even if that does mean he’s wearing a bright green bow tie. He says he has gotten used to people staring at him as he walks into bowls clubs and has even had bowlers from England and South Africa asking him to visit their clubs.
But even in these early days, Dumbrell’s joyfulness about bowls has its critics.
“I just ignore it, people are either going to love you or hate you.
“My advice to anyone in a similar situation is to ignore it and move on,” he said.
Bowls hasn’t always been a constant in Dumbrell’s life. After dropping the sport in his teens, he picked it up again in his 20s partly because he was sick of footy training, but also to spend more time with his family.
“Every time I played sport, my dad supported me and watched me play,” he said.
“So, when I picked bowls up again, I did it to play with my Dad.”
The sport will forever have a family connection for Dumbrell, but he decided to take the game more seriously after his father passed away two years ago. After conjuring up memories of his time sitting outside the bowls club being unhappy, Dumbrell was inspired to turn the unhappy memory around and the Happy Bowler was born.
With the platform he’s created, Dumbrell not only wishes to show people how great bowls is, but also to point people towards causes he cares about. Family is something that is deeply ingrained into Boyd’s make up. A father of five boys, when his nephew could no longer take care of his daughter, the Dumbrell family gladly took her in through the Mirabel Foundation.
“We couldn’t say no,” he said.
“She’s enjoying being in a large family.”
He promotes the Mirabel Foundation through his website and has raised over $500. He’s also helping a mate launch “Bowls Gr8 for Brains” to assist all service personnel with PTSD and any other issues. 1
Despite his growing popularity, Boyd has yet to make much of a dime as the Happy Bowler. He works night shift as a truck driver and then spends his days being Dad and the Happy Bowler.
“I was so busy doing my Happy Bowler stuff that my pool turned green,” he laughed.
Dumbrell has few ideas about what next steps. At his home club of Valentine, he’s looking to pioneer a new format of bowls called Matrix. Matrix will be played in a new tournament called the “Sporting Club Challenge” where he hopes to recruit not only bowls clubs, but rugby league, soccer, tennis or any other sporting clubs and in the offseason get them to settle their differences on the green.
While you won’t always see Boyd as the Happy Bowler, his passion for the sport runs through his veins and he’s happy to talk with anyone. He has some advice for anyone looking to pick up a lawn bowl, which is what his father told him.
“Have a rum,” he said.
“I listened to Dad and did that when I was down 12-0 in the knockouts against Lee Schraner at the Australian Open.
“It turned out okay after that.”