The numbers tell the story

World Bowls champion Mike Kernaghan (North East Valley) competes in the final of the Bowls...
World Bowls champion Mike Kernaghan (North East Valley) competes in the final of the Bowls Dunedin open pairs at the Fairfield green this week. He was teamed with Andy McLean and they lost the final to Joe Gordon and Russell Dawe (Kaikorai) 16-14. Photo: Peter McIntosh
The statistics have overturned the myth that bowls is a minor sport.

It is, in fact, one of the most popular interclub summer sports played throughout the Otago province.

A total of 430 male bowlers compete in the interclub sevens in Dunedin each Saturday morning and 75 female competitors contest the women’s fives. There are 904 bowlers in the men’s Saturday afternoon competitions.

There are also midweek competitions. In Dunedin, 24 regular interclub competitions are played each week. In addition, there are 14 Bowls Dunedin championship events, representative matches and additional prestige events such as the North East Valley Invitation Singles and Women’s Pairs, the Taieri Fours and the Kaikorai Festival Fours.

The sport is also popular in regional Otago. North Otago, Central Otago and South Otago hold regular interclub competitions as well as championship and representative events.

Bowls is also played in the winter  and the Dunedin Lawn Bowls Stadium  green on Saturday mornings is packed. There are also midweek competitions, and  prestige events each winter.

Oldest clubs

Bowls is a traditional sport in Otago and the game was started there in the 19th century.

The oldest clubs in the province are Milton (1878), Balclutha (1880), Meadowbank (1881), Roslyn (1883), Taieri (1886), Kaitangata (1886), Oamaru Phoenix (1886), Green Island (1887), Port Chalmers (1892), St Clair (1892), Clinton (1897), Palmerston (1898) and Outram (1900).

The Auckland Bowling club, opened in 1861, was the first bowls club established in New Zealand. It was followed in 1872 by the Dunedin club, which was based in the Dunedin Hospital grounds and closed in 1972.

The Christchurch club was opened in 1875 and  South Otago club  Milton is the oldest country club in New Zealand.

The first interclub match in New Zealand was held in 1876 between Dunedin clubs Fernhill and Dunedin.

The world’s oldest surviving bowling green is at the Southhampton Old Bowling Club in England. It was first used in 1299.


Sarah Scott (North East Valley) won her sixth centre title when she teamed with club-mate Rachael McDowell to beat Green Island’s Jan Hall and Leigh Grigg 15-10 in the women’s open pairs. It was the third title for McDowell.

Shaun Scott (North East Valley) continued his top form when he teamed with Trevor Tomlins (Northend, Invercargill) to win the 40th annual Southland invitation pairs.

The pair beat Glenn Milne (Waihopai) and Darryl Scammell (Gore) 16-11 in the final.

North Otago

Phoenix bowlers Mike Aspros and Marie Guthrie have won their fifth centre titles and North Otago gold star.

Aspros, who is affectionately known as "Pedro the Fisherman", reached the target in the men’s open fours.

The Phoenix team was skipped by Ray Forbes, who was joined by Daniel Fletcher, Hugh Catto and Aspros.

The team won 20-12 over another Phoenix team, skipped by Trevor Williams.

It was the second centre title for Forbes, the third for Catto and the first for Fletcher.

Guthrie won her gold star in the women’s triples with Brenda Hope and Sue Jones when they beat a Kerry Kelly-skipped Phoenix trio 18-10 in the final.

It was the 22nd title for Hope and the eighth for Jones.

The Phoenix domination in centre events continued when the men’s triples team of Scott Greenland, Roger Leek and Robbie Halcrow beat the Meadowbank team, skipped by Graham Sangster, 16-2.

It was the 13th centre title for Leek, the second for skip Greenland and the fourth for  Robbie Halcrow.

Kerry Kelly (Phoenix), the mother of Black Jacks squad member Andrew Kelly, won her 26th centre title in the women’s two-life singles when she beat Dorothy Breen (Meadowbank) 21-16 and retained her two lives.

Meadowbank’s Barbara Allan and Bill Liddicoat beat  Phoenix husband and wife  Bill and Carol Behrens 7-5 in the development optional mixed pairs.

The representative season begins with the Northern Quadrangular for men, women and developmental bowlers in Timaru on December 3.

Central Otago

Christine Buchanan won her 25th centre title and fourth bar for her gold star when Queenstown narrowly beat Daphne Guise, Sydney Mulligan, Joy Kilgour and Cathy Richards (Clyde) 13-12 in the open fours.

It was the 33rd title for Margaret O’Connor, the 17th for Debra Lloyd and the 10th and bar for her gold star by Jane Anderson.

In the men’s 1-10 year of bowls pairs, Peter Herbison and Greg Merwood (Bannockburn) beat Russell Dennison and Neville Kemp (Clyde) 9-4.

In the women’s pairs, Daphne Guise and Sydney Mulligan beat Clyde club-mates Joy Kilgour and Pat Alexander 4-3.

South Otago

Promising first-year bowler Gerry Cosgrove is in the Finegand team that will contest the South Otago fours final next February.

The team is skipped by Robert Wilson, who has won 27 South Otago titles. The other team members are David Roxburgh and Charlie Wyndham.

All South Otago men’s and women’s championship events will be played at the finals weekend on February 10 and 11.

Finegand will face the Kaitangata four of Graeme Hyslop, Brian Cowie, Peter Twaddle and Bruce Littlejohn.

Kaka Point leads the Saturday interclub competition with 36 points after four rounds and is followed by Owaka (30), Balclutha (28), Clutha Valley and Milton Gold (27).

Kaka Point also leads the men’s Tuesday Sevens competition with 16 points from Balclutha (14) and Milton (12). Balclutha leads the fours competition with six points.

Eastern Southland beat South Otago  28 points to 13 in the men’s event at Gore.

The fours team of John Bissett, Neil Walker, Graham Dale and Bruce Gold were the only South Otago team to have two wins on the day.

Mornington beat South Otago in the annual women’s Wallace Trophy match in Dunedin  69-52, for the first time in seven years.

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