NSW Ladies Singles Champ, Margaret Smith, gives a little chuckle when I ask her why she is such a good bowler. “I don’t really know, it just happened,’’ she says.
For the newly-crowned Ladies Singles champion of NSW, 2016 was the year when a great deal happened. Her triumph followed tragedy, and her happiness was overshadowed by heartache.
Firstly, her father Jim, 87, the man who introduced her to lawn bowls, died after an operation. Then, only weeks later, her husband, Wayne, was diagnosed with lung cancer as well as thyroid cancer.
Battling to keep her emotions in check, Margaret escaped to bowls as often as circumstances would allow. Firstly, she won her club singles at Avoca Beach Bowling Club on the NSW Central Coast. Then it was success in the district singles and regional competitions.
At the State play-offs in Tuncurry in October last year, Margaret defeated Sarah Boddington and Molly Wilton. She then went on to the final against NSW Hills District champion Shirley de la Harpe. It was a see-sawing and engrossing final with Margaret prevailing on the last end, although at one stage she was six shots down.
Her journey to the top flight of bowls started in 1995 when Margaret went to the St Johns Park club in western Sydney with her parents. She played in various tournaments with her mother, Mary, and took to the game like a duck to water.
Margaret’s winning run started in 1998 with the NSW Masters singles title, followed by various state representative honours, three years of National Round Robin titles, and victory in the Australian Open triples in 2007.
She also played in a pennant team skipped by Australian star Karen Murphy before joining the Cabramatta club, also in western Sydney, and then heading north to the Central Coast when her parents retired.
And what does the NSW Ladies Singles Champ like most about bowling? “Trying to master the game itself. It can be so frustrating. Different greens, different conditions and different opponents. Concentration is the key.’’