Rise of lawn bowls among WA millennials

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Mount Lawley Bowling Club

Sunday Night Barefoot Bowls at Mount Lawley Bowling Club

Jess Emery, Reporter

No longer is grey hair and a walker the stereotype for a lawn bowls player – increasingly, young millennials are racing to take up the sport.

28-year-old Nathan Smith is the 2018 Western Australian State Pairs Champion and started his bowling journey journey as a child.

“My brothers and I would go over to the bowling club to spend time with Dad.

“From there, we picked up the gist of the game and watching didn’t cut it anymore, so we got out there and gave it a go,” he said.

The origin of lawn bowls has a controversial history with evidence of the sport dating back to 5200 BC with ancient Egyptians.  The first modern day lawn bowls club opened its doors to members in England in 1299.

The 2017 National Bowls Census Report showed Australia had 1,872 clubs with just under 700,000 participants.

They competed in various pennants competitions as well as social and educational events – a number that continues to rise.

“More and more young people are certainly taking up the sport. We had our singles championship yesterday and our champion was thirty-two,” said Rose Lenzo, Mount Lawley Bowls Club manager.

“It’s a novelty, they’ll come and play because they think it’s funny – how daggy it is, but then they are surprised they can have a drink while playing!”

“Initially the fact that I could play with three generations of my family was a nice part of the game – although cheap beers later were pretty good too,” Mr Smith said.

“I just find the game interesting as it can be so social yet so competitive at the same time.”

Ms Lenzo explained Lawn bowls is an inclusive sport: “a female can play just as well as a male, you don’t need the added strength – it’s more about the concentration and mental strength.”

“Plus, it makes playing a lot of fun and gets you fit walking up and down the green no matter your age.

“Sometimes it can get interesting when bowls is very slow to change with some of the older bowlers stuck in a ‘that’s the way it’s done’ mentality however, many young players are fair about those traditions and do their best to work around them,” she said.

I think the socialisation is very positive,” said Manning Bowling Club women’s pennant player Candace Smith.

“There are some unwritten courtesies that younger people have to learn and follow.. the older generation can get a bit set in their ways.”

But according to Ms Lenzo, lawn bowling veterans are happy their sport is staying alive: “all of our older bowlers love seeing younger people playing ‘their’ game.”