By Colin MacGillivray
LAWN bowls clubs across Mitchell Shire are preparing for one of the biggest shake-ups to Victorian competition in several decades at the end of this season.
At the conclusion of finals this month, the Central Bowls Division will cease to exist as part of a Bowls Victoria restructure.
Bowls divisions will be abolished and clubs will be consolidated into 16 regions.
Of the eight Central Bowls Division teams, Kilmore and Broadford will join the Central Victoria Bowls Region, Wallan will be incorporated into the metropolitan Northern Gateway Bowls Region, and Seymour, Seymour VRI, Yea, Alexandra and Eildon will join the Central Goulburn Murray Bowls Region.
Club leaders said it would be sad to see the end of the Central Bowls Division, but accepted the change as necessary.
Kilmore Bowls Club committee member Doug Haynes said many Kilmore members would miss playing against clubs they had competed with for years.
“I think people are looking forward to a new challenge [in Central Victoria], although we’ll miss the people and the clubs that we’ve all gotten to know in this area, because we won’t see them again unless there are tournaments or things like that,” he said.
“This division was formed in 1925 when Kilmore sent a team up to Seymour and played a tournament with Nagambie, Seymour and Kilmore. On that day they decided they’d form a district.
“It is a shame in a way, but there’s only eight clubs in this existing division and the idea is to get more clubs in each playing area. I think people have accepted it, but there will be some regrets I’m sure. Some of these people have been playing against each other for years and years.”
Wallan Bowling Club president Greg Cowan said a move to metropolitan competition was necessary for the club’s long-term future.
“Some of our members don’t like travelling into Melbourne, especially the older members, so I think it impacts on them a little bit, but it’s a growing population around Wallan and we need to tap into that to increase our membership to be competitive in the metropolitan system, which is far stronger than the country system.
“It’s a stronger competition and it’ll help us attract membership. In the long term, it’s the best thing for the club.”
Seymour VRI Bowling Club secretary Stephen McGregor said a higher standard of competition in the Central Goulburn Murray Bowls Region would benefit the club.
“I know Seymour and Seymour VRI have both been keen to get up into the Goulburn Valley for a number of years now. We’re more than happy that it has finally happened,” he said.
“The Central Bowls Division has gone from being probably 10 or 11 clubs down to eight now, and some of those clubs are struggling. The clubs are getting smaller whereas if you go up to the Goulburn Valley they have six divisions.
“They have promotion and relegation so you can find a level of competition that best suits your players, and if you’re at an appropriate level of competition, that’s when your bowls improve.
“We’re hoping it will encourage a few more people to come in and play bowls. All of our members are keen to get up there and looking forward to the challenge.”