IT was during some pre-season practice matches that Ballarat Memorial Sports decided to pencil Stephen Byron in for a spot in division one.
Byron, whose nickname is “Pencil” (his father’s nickname is “Biro”), has been in two matches this season for two rink wins.
It has been a quick rise for the 27-year-old, who had previously played eight seasons at BMS without breaking into the club’s top side. Byron says that has been all about putting the practice in.
“Unfortunately at the club a few of our senior players left after last year. There were a few vacancies in division one and I had actually been putting in a lot of time practicing over the summer,” Byron says.
“A few people like Graeme Inglis and Des Williams noticed that I had put in the work. At one of the practice matches they told me that they were thinking about me playing division one and asked if I was okay with that. Well, I was very okay with that.
“I had wanted to play at a higher division for a while. Last year we were in premier division and I wasn’t ready for that, and our division three side was very settled and they didn’t want to upset that.”
Byron followed his dad into bowls at BMS after tiring of playing cricket. Or more to the point, not playing cricket.
“I guess I was sick of all the standing around,” he explains. “I was a batsman and had to be the umpire, so I used to spend a good part of the day just standing at square leg.
“Dad had been playing bowls for a few years. I went practising with him a few times and enjoyed it. When the clubs merged (Ballarat City and Servicemen’s Memorial) and won a final, I was at the club during the celebrations and decided then to give it a go.
“I think I started in division five as a leader. I played a few as a leader, then I got a chance to play second for a while. Four years ago I got the chance to play third and last year I was a skipper for six or seven games, although I got the axe at one point and had to play third.”
Division one has represented a step up in class. Perhaps that step up has helped Byron improve his own game.
“There is more pressure on every bowl,” he says. “It’s about consistency. There is no really short or really long bowls, every bowl is within a metre or so.
“I think I’m coping fairly well. I’ve been doing a lot more practice.”
Byron says BMS is a good club for an up and coming bowler to learn his trade. The mix of ages, he says, is very good, as is the relationship between higher and lower divisions.
“It is a reasonably young club overall. As a side we have a few young bowlers which is good because it is the future,” he says.