Ron Wiggins of Cronulla has played Pennants for Cronulla Bowling Club for over 60 years, and no-one can ever remember him missing a sectional game in all of that time.
Pennants was a little different in 1956 when Ron first started. Most men had to work on Saturday mornings and so the roll-up before the game started at 1.30pm and with teams playing 25 end games more often than not stretched into the darkness hours. Ron sees the benefit of today’s shorter 21-end games, not finishing in the dark.
Ron moved to Cronulla in 1953 and was introduced to bowls when the Secretary Manager of Cronulla Bowling Club utilised Ron’s skills in ‘the electrical game’ to motorise the roller used on the greens. From there Ron became involved in the club, becoming a member in 1955 (after serving the mandatory six months waiting period) and started to play bowls in 1956.
Ron started in the lower grades, moving up to play in Grade 1 in 1961 and playing in Grade 1 until 1997 when Cronulla moved back to Grade 2. He has won every Club Championship at Cronulla and been a member of quite a few Cronulla sides that have won Zone Pennants.
Ron also reckons that the wider bowls used in those days meant that games took a little longer and believes that the biggest change in the game he has seen has been in the bowls themselves. The narrower bowls have made the game a faster, more aggressive game. He doesn’t mind the changes but thinks that there was more skill needed to be a master with the wide drawing bowls.
Ron has not only been a long-term bowler but also a servant of the club. He has been the Club President’ Chairman, Acting Secretary Manager and Licensee, Bowls Secretary, Selector, Umpire and has ‘helped out with coaching’. In the early days Ron also helped out as a barman on Sundays, when Cronulla was classed as a “country” area and was exempt from stricter trading restrictions placed on establishments “in the city”. Ron’s service to the club is recognised with one of Cronulla’s greens named after him.
Ron also reckons he’s seen some great bowlers in his day. Although Herb Mangelsdorf was Cronulla’s most awarded bowler, Ron says he really enjoyed playing third behind Alan ‘Smoky’ Griffin and rates Garney Noble as the best bowler he’s ever seen in action.
Ron still loves getting out on the green. While he may now play in the 7s, he is still very competitive. While he loves to put in his best to win, the greatest thrill is just in being out there competing. In addition to playing, he rolls up twice a week. In fact, when we caught up with Ron he was having a friendly practice match with his mate Paul Prescott – who reckons Ron taught him “everything he knows about bowls” and that he was honoured to have Ron as a mate.
Ron also said he was looking forward to one of the joys of bowls after their practice session, sit down and have a quiet, refreshing beer before going home and enjoying a nice glass of red.
Article and image: Thank you to Bowls NSW, Andrew Lynn
See the full article here in Bowls Plus magazine.