By Greg Danvers
On Sunday June 9, 2019 the very LAST game of lawn bowls will be played at Ballina RSL Bowling Club after Ballina RSL Club Limited made the decision to close the site.
We take a look back and some of their highlights over the years:
FIFTY years on from a single green in River St to three greens and a stand-alone club in Canal Rd, the Ballina RSL men’s bowling club will face many challenges before its next major milestone.
Not only has the club industry undergone significant change, the demands on people’s time and disposable income, along with the many recreational activities available, but also continues to challenge clubs to attract and retain members.
“This is a very auspicious occasion for the club,” Bowls NSW director Ian McKnight said at the club’s 50th-anniversary celebrations on Saturday (September 27, 2014).
“In today’s climate in club life it is very difficult to keep your head above water and I am sure the club here is no different to others.”
McKnight emphasised the need to attract younger members with shorter games and more suitable times for families and youth.
“We need new types of games, to get away from the standard games we play,” he said. “Shorter and more vibrant games; games of less than two hours.”
Lawn bowls at Ballina RSL can be traced to the opening of a single green in River St on September 26, 1964.
A year before, the inaugural committee, headed up by chairman A T ‘Sandy’ May, oversaw the construction of the green on reclaimed land between the RSL Club and River St.
Ballina Shire grew substantially over the next two decades as did the bowling club membership which led to the move to Canal Rd.
The three greens and clubhouse were opened by Royal NSW Bowling Association president Jack Ball on September 21, 1986.
Uncertainty over a rumoured redevelopment proposal of the Canal Rd site in 2002 severely affected club membership and many left to join other clubs.
“Since that time the club has consolidated, has a stable membership and is known throughout the area as the friendly club,” president Brian Lewis said.
The club has had success in Northern Rivers pennants, winning many flags. In its 50th year, the club broke through for the first time at zone level.
The No 6 pennant side won the Zone One flag and went on to represent the region at the State finals held in Ballina on the Canal Rd and Cherry St greens.
“Fifty years is a long time for a club to be operating,” Ballina MP Don Page said.
“In terms of the future, it does present challenges for clubs right across the sector, not just bowling clubs, especially smaller clubs.
“I think the future for Ballina RSL Bowling Club is quite bright, although there will be challenges along the way.”
The Sandflies are a social group of bowlers, who are registered bowlers mainly with the Ballina RSL Men’s Bowling Club but has members affiliated with Alstonville, Cherry Street, Lennox Head and other clubs in the region.
Some thirty-two years ago (1987) the Sandflies formed and are as strong as ever with over 80 members on the books.
Social trips are arranged on a reciprocal basis to varied clubs on the Far North Coast, South East Queensland and Brisbane.
Foundation and Life member Alby Waldron told how the Sandflies grew out of a group of golfers who tired of getting up before dawn for a game of golf and instead met at the Ballina RSL Bowling Club for a mid-morning roll-up and a few ales after with mates, probably told many a tale, but enjoyed each other’s company.
“The Sandflies are a very social group of blokes who are made welcome where ever we travel, and we ensure our visitors have a very enjoyable time when they visit our club,” said current Treasurer Alby Waldron.
“I am very proud that the Sandflies are in the position they are today and confident, given the quality of members we have, will continue on for another 30 years.”