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Bowls In Focus : November 2010
22 Bowls In Focus If ever New Zealand has suffered a loss it has been with Sharon Whana, a talented hockey player and born entertainer who was on her way home five years ago after coming to Australia for a ‘look see’. Then the unthinkable happened, she was persuaded to pick up a lawn bowl by friend Judy Stainton, a phys-ed teacher who herself got hooked on bowls at a time when her contemporaries were still playing golf, or trying to kill themselves on the hockey field. Judy handed Sharon that bowl in all innocence, as did Evelyn Cox, who on that day at Kyneton Bowling Club actually lent Sharon her set so she could give the game a go during a competition lunch break. What they inadver tently unleashed was a talent rarely seen in a sport that takes light years to con- quer, if it indeed can be conquered at all. Within seventy days of putting that first bowl down at Kyneton, Sharon won the club singles title, the 21-up final and made the last four of the Central Highlands Champion of Champions. Add to these the Champion of Champion pairs with Judy and Kyneton handicap pairs with Hazel Walsh, while she made her debut in the local Division 1 pennant, playing lead for one of the region’s best skips at the time, Betty Phelps. The following season Sharon took out the Victorian Novice Singles Championship at Lalor after blazing her way through the district and group. In the pairs this time around Judy stepped off the mat as skip and their pair cleaned up at club and district level. Whether it be a racing thoroughbred or a lawn bowler, raw talent will not get to the top without careful handling by those who nurture the talent. And no one knew this better than Judy Stainton, who by the way has owned a winner or two in horse racing and has had a long career in teaching and coaching sport, as did the man Sharon gives credit to for laying the foundations of her game, the late Clive Phelps. “He would put 20 cents pieces four metres out and I would have to deliver bowls over them,” recalls Sharon. The 2007-2008 season saw Sharon named in the Victorian state squad for the first time and play- ing her second season in Division 1, this time as skip. It was also the second time she qualified for the Australian Open. But the time came last season for her to move out of the small pond when she and Judy trans- ferred to Glenroy. “There are five state players at Glenroy and they’re all very supportive. There’s no big fish in a little pond there,” she said. Even so Sharon was in the winning circle taking out the club fours with Judy as lead, Kath Usher second and Carol Shipley third. There was also the satisfaction of playing in Glenroy’s winning RVBA side as a second and skipping in the VLBA Division 1 side. Last season again proved that life at the top isn’t all that bad, even though it takes a great chunk out of her life. But Sharon wouldn’t notice, for the one thing that can be observed about her, is that she loves every minute of bowls and life. Her enthusi- asm is infectious both playing bowls and doing the other things she loves in life, singing and entertain- ing, something she does on a regular basis with her one-girl show ‘Whanabe Entertained’. “Have you ever known a Maori who doesn’t sing?” she asked as she relaxed over a morning cup of coffee before taking off for a performance. And that side of her life started in her childhood in New Zealand some moons ago. “I was no taller than a grasshopper, with two sisters and a guitar that was too big for them,” she said recalling her career with her father, who led a family group and then being part of a dance band with her older sister Jennifer, who is also now in Australia and discovering the beauty of bowls herself. Appearance and vitality may hide the fact that Sharon is actually a mother of three adult children and jokes about taking time off for ‘child care’ when she was younger even though she continued with her other passion, hockey. During her sporting career she was a member of various New Zealand squads and more recently represented her country at the Masters Games. After coming to Australia she played for one of Melbourne’s leading clubs, Camberwell, for two years before deciding to hang up the cleats. Bowls of course, being one excuse! But hockey is in her blood. “There were four children who played hockey and both mum and dad played. Well, Mum used to give it a go and cleaned our boots and all that sor t of thing,” laughs Sharon recalling the mess caused by playing on grass fields. This season seems to be running like the others. She is a member of the state squad for a third stint, finished in the money in the recent Bendigo Classic Pairs playing with Judy and was runner-up in Zone 12 state triples with Judy and Lyn Collins. Sharon is back playing Division 1 Tuesday pennant for Glenroy, but this season she and Judy have gone closer to home for Saturday pennant, this year playing for Lancefield. And she didn’t spend the winter knitting either, being runner-up in the Mixed Singles Prestige Open at Tweed Heads and made the quarter finals of the Queensland Open pairs playing with another outstanding kiwi Gail Waitai. Although originally coached by Mark Cowan and now Lachlan Tighe, Sharon is a player who learns from those around her and places Karen Murphy and Jan Hurst as two players she most admires and has learned from. But she has her own philosophy on sport, particularly bowls and it is this that will continue to keep her feet squarely on the ground, “Winning is the ultimate, but it’s the journey that matters.” - D i Gatehouse • Top: Here’s Sharon and Judy with internationals Karen Murphy and Kay Moran after their recent match at Moama. • Above: Performing in her one-girl show is another passion for Sharon. • Below: Sharon on the mat during a recent state squad training day. A 10-Week Trip To Glory