THE Roosters are crowing a new tune.
Established in 1896, Ballarat North is one of the region’s oldest bowling clubs, but change is happening. And leading that change is Brooke Ayers and partner Simon Young.
Brooke and Simon have only been bowling for two years. They are already in the Roosters’ top side, in division two, and making their presence felt at North, both on the green and off it.
They want more younger bowlers to climb on board to renew the sport and their club.
“This club is old in the sense of having a lot of history but it doesn’t have to be in every sense,” Brooke says. “We need to get rid of the stigma of this being an old person’s sport and an old person’s club.”
Simon agrees. “We want people – young people – to come here and enjoy their bowls,” he says.
Originally from Albury-Wodonga, Brooke (36) and Simon (38) dropped into North to play some barefoot bowls when they were invited by a friend.
Before long they were regulars, and within 12 months Brooke was club champion.
“I was surprised how challenging it was and surprised how quickly I could pick it up,” she admits. “I enjoyed that but, without going into details, I think bowls came to me at a good time in my life.”
Brooke says that despite North’s somewhat conservative reputation, she was immediately made welcome at the club and there was no shortage of people willing to help with the finer points of the game.
“I was surprised by how little discrimination there was. I started with the men and learned with the men,” she said.
Apart from two club championships in 2012 and 2013, Brooke won the Heartbeat Fours with Simon, and was in the region state fours champion team with Mt Xavier bowlers Joy Adams, Carmel Mitchell and Kathy Ogg.
Brooke now plays between three to five days a week (“I’ve seen seven!” Simon says).
In weekend pennant she plays skipper while Simon is her rink’s lead.
“It works fine,” Simon says. “I do what I’m told most of the time.”
But that, he insists, is where it ends.
“It ends when we leave the rink. At home we’re both ‘skippers’ because we have teenagers.”
As part of their plan to bring new blood to North, Brooke and Simon helped set up community bowls on Sundays from noon-5pm for new bowlers. Brooke is the club secretary while Simon is on the committee.
Club president Dennis Radisich says they represent a new face for the Roosters.
“It is the sort of club you can just drop in, have a coffee, and play all year round,” he says. “It is a progressive club, not like it was even five years ago.
“Not a lot of people know that Ballarat North are the Roosters. Well, we’re a different breed of Rooster.”