Saturday was a somewhat historic day for the sport of bowls, with Australian and NSW administrating bodies allowing a social return to the sport amid easing Covid-19 social gathering restrictions.
Bowls NSW and Women’s Bowls NSW, under the guidance of Bowls Australia, announced the changes late last week.
“Bowls NSW together with Women’s Bowls NSW now advise that clubs may, at their own risk, and after satisfying their own legal and insurance responsibilities, allow the use of their outdoor bowling greens for practice/roll ups under strict guidelines,” a statement read.
“Both associations would like to make it very clear that clubs are under no obligation to open their greens but, if they feel as though they can do so safely and with proper protocols, may allow practice/roll ups from Saturday 2nd May.”
According to Club Tumut CEO, Jarrad Rossiter, Tumut players were back in action as early as last Monday, with a group of players taking advantage of the easing conditions.
“We had a group of bowlers out playing on Monday; there was about 15 players across the two greens,” Rossiter said.
“We have been maintaining the greens and keeping them in good condition, so they were ready to be used.”
The Club Tumut representative said that strict protocol was in place and he hoped that patrons used common sense when utilising their facilities.
“It’s obviously pretty strict in how we play; there is only two (players) to a rink, a rink distance in between games, only one person touching a ball and we have the toilet open and hand sanitisers and things like that,” Rossiter said.
“I am happy for bowling to happen with social distancing and a common sense approach but people need to follow the rules.”
Rossiter, who has made it possible for social bowlers to utilise the greens during this time, is hoping that this attempt at social-distancing bowling is a stepping-stone to the club reopening for trade.
“On the outdoor toilet block there is a code lock and my phone number for anyone wanting to have a social roll up,” Rossiter said.
“I hope this is a start. Clubs NSW is pushing the state government to get back us back open but there will be restrictions but we hope this is a start.”
Gundagai Bowling Club President, Richard Erkelens, was another strong advocate for the return of the sport even while restrictions were in place.
He saw bowls as similar to golf and tennis, in the sense that it could be carried out with participants at a safe distance, and in-line with social distancing rules.
“It’s a start, but it’s absolutely wonderful for bowlers to be able to get back on the greens,” Erkelens said.
“At the moment we are allowed to play singles or pairs in a practice or roll-up format, but there are strict rules that have been put in place by Bowls NSW, and as a club we will be following them to the letter in order to get restrictions eased further.”
Bowls Australia CEO Neil Dalrymple is confident that the decision to allow social roll ups is a move in the right direction and touched on the importance of administrating bodies assisting bowling clubs in the coming months.
“The key is to support the clubs on the way back and we know that clubs, particularly in NSW and Queensland, are going to be impacted by this pandemic and financially they are going to suffer for the months they are closed,” Dalrymple said.
“So I suppose our position as a national body, along with our state associations, is to help these clubs back, whether that is some relief with their membership fees.
Dalrymple said that numbers on the greens is what would count and explained that Bowls Australia would be doing their best to help clubs all over the country.
“Its certainly going to be how we can help them resume the sport, market the game, get the existing members back and also get more people playing,” Dalrymple said.
“But also provide resources and support for the club administrators, so we can help them back through it, from a financial point of view and planning point of view and with as little impact as possible.”