THERE was a time, only a couple of decades ago, when women had to wear white skirts on the greens for pennant. (This columnist’s own granny was a defiant pioneer in skorts).
Bright club coloured pants pennant players wear now would have been run off the rinks, let alone testing the concept of night bowls.
But this is a game that has incredibly evolved to stay fresh and attract new players in modern society, with so much more competition among sports and competition for potential players’ time.
Ballarat Bowling Club, one of the oldest lawn bowls clubs in the region, should be applauded for pushing for more Friday night lights on pennant. Learmonth was up against Ballarat in the season’s first night fixture last night to lead off division one action this round in Ballarat District Bowls Division.
Down the Midland Highway, Buninyong was taking on Ocean Grove under the new Geelong superdome in Ballarat-Geelong premier bowls.
This is great for the game and great for players.
Pennant bowls can be fierce and night matches always make the atmosphere that little more electric. Now our region’s top bowlers have more chance to put the spotlight on their showmanship.
Night fixtures encourages more onlookers among bowling circles and those in action have the chance to check out play of clubmates or rivals in the usual Saturday afternoon time slot.
Gone are the days when summer community sport can only be every Saturday afternoon. This goes for tennis and cricket too, both of which are changing up their games a bit in Ballarat.
Players need greater flexibility in fixtures to fit other lifestyle demands – particularly when lawn bowls is increasingly attracting younger players to top ranks.
“If you are not doing anything different, it’s going to stay the same,” top Ballarat bowler Mark Fothergill told The Courier. “You look at cricket with the Big Bash League and all that – it’s a fast game now. So we have got to try and introduce something else into bowls. Night games is something different.”
Traditionalists may be tugging their whites at the prospect but bowls has been making bold changes for awhile now. For cricket’s Twenty20, there is the bowls equivalent Jack Attack and a social bowls has long been popular in barefoot formats.
BDBD must also prepare for a looming end to Ballarat-Geelong premier bowls next season. If Ballarat bowls wants to remain strong, BDBD must innovate.
A Deakin University study released last month pointed to lawn bowls as a sport for sharpening mental toughness and remaining calm under fire. If you have ever been to a BDBD final you will understand exactly how this comes into play – complete with roaring crowds.
Bowls battles organically create great sporting tension. Concentration and self-belief is paramount for top bowlers. This is a sport of calculated efforts to build heads that must adapt to individual bowlers’ styles, long ends or short ends, green speed and wind conditions.
And lighting. This is a sport that definitely deserves a chance in the spotlight to see what might grow.
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