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Bowls In Focus : January 2011
6 Bowls In Focus IT is a dangerous thing to ignore the lessons of history - perhaps even more dangerous to not even know about one’s history at all. A Sport For All History is a curious beast. All too often the interpretation we have of the past is guided by the limited information we have. For instance, the languages of the Australian indigenous peoples (not one people) were extremely complex in their structure and grammar, but I grew up thinking that they spoke in a primitive way: ‘Yarra Yarra’ meant waterfall (I think), as per the back of the old brown encyclopedia. But they actually did not wander the country using stilted words - their sentence constructions were incredibly complex. Also, Sir Redmond Barry, the pillar of Victorian society whose statue stands outside the State Library in Swanston Street, was a colossus in Victorian history: the first Solicitor-General of Victoria, Supreme Court Judge (he most famously sentenced Ned Kelly to hang in 1880), instrumental in the foundation of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, the University of Melbourne and the State Library of Victoria. He was at one time (around 1868?), president of the Carlton Bowling Club. At his burial site in the Melbourne Cemetery, stands a monument erected to his place in Victorian society, but nowhere at the site will you see recorded that buried with him is Louisa Barrow - his beloved mistress and mother of the four children who bore his name. History should be understood and incorporated into all of our planning. But, is it wise to plan for the future by constantly looking in the rear-view mirror? I think not. Yearning for a past that has gone is often to yearn for something that in reality was not quite as good as we thought it was. The ‘golden years’ are often tarnished if we are honest about it. We’ve been looking recently at the reported disenchantment of a segment of bowlers in Victoria who have been disenchanted with not being able to play single-gender pennant competitions. For some, the aim of reinstating a Ladies Pennant Competition and a Men’s Competition and a Mixed Competition is the desired outcome - the only desired outcome. “If we can’t go back to what we had, then I’ll give the game away”. Each time this matter is raised there is quite literally a counter argument that is immediately fired into my office from numerous other bowlers and clubs. “We like playing pennant as it is - get over it and move on.” So, to balance the ledger, let’s look at the argument (as I understand it) from the other side. Please note: My aim is to present some of the arguments for not having gender-specific pennant. I know that people will agree/disagree with the following sentiments, often passionately. But, much and all as I encourage communication with me in my role, please simply take the following on board as another view - I really don’t want to be subjected to further abuse and pages of further counter-arguments just because I am presenting another viewpoint. Bowls is a sport that can be played equally well by men and women regardless of strength, stamina and physique. This should be marketed as a posi- tive characteristic of our sport, not a negative. There are few, if any, other sports where a husband and wife, a grandfather and grand-daughter, a grand-father, son and grandson, a wheelchair bowler, a grandmother and grandson, a small person/large person, tall person/short person, visually impaired bowler, a ‘strokie’, an amputee, a person of any race, religion, socio-economic background, the homeless, a new arrival to the country, people with intellectual dis- abilities, people with cerebral palsy, even Collingwood barrackers - all can play with or against each other. Why would we segregate on the ba- sis of gender when all other charac- teristics (physical strength, stamina, physique, race, religion, ability/dis- ability, socio-economic background, employment status, etc.) say that anyone can play this game? The size of the equipment and the style of play is not gender- specific. Many women use a size 4 heavy bowl and a number of boys/men use a size 2 or smaller. To argue that because men use larger, heavier bowls and women use smaller, lighter bowls, women need to be able to play in women’s only pennant competitions is flawed. If a man uses size 2 bowls and never drives, can he play in the women’s only competition? If a woman uses a 4 heavy, is she not allowed to play in the women’s pennant competition? If she drives, is she disqualified from playing in the women’s comp? Many men never drive and some women are very effective up-shot players. There are many opportunities for people to play socially together. There are numerous opportunities for people to play socially together as men or women, so do that while leav- ing pennant alone. The real problem with Tuesday/ Mid-week Pennant is that Clubs don’t enter enough sides to cater for all who want to play, so that when bowlers are selected on merit a number of bowlers (per- haps mainly older lady bowlers) miss out on a game. If people stopped calling mid-week pennant ‘Ladies’ Pennant’ and entered the number of sides based upon all members who want to play, all would get a game. Calling it Ladies’ Pennant and then having men play is at the heart of the problem: it is not Ladies’ Pennant anymore than Saturday is Men’s Pennant. If the argument is to have lower Divisions of Pennant categorised as Women’s Pennant to enable the older, perhaps more frail women to play with and against each other, where do the other frail, less physically able bowlers (young- sters, elderly men) play? If it is necessary to segregate elderly, frail ladies into their own Division/s, how does a Club manage to put together such a side? Can bowlers from a higher divi- sion play with them? Can they be promoted to play in a higher, ‘mixed’ Division? Is it really a form of social bowls rather than competitive pennant? The positives of being able to play together far outweigh the negatives. When we watch young people on the bowling green, it is often a mixture of young men and women socialising and playing together. For many, this is the first spor t they’ve encountered where one gender doesn’t automatically have it all over the other. Playing beach cricket often sees mixed games, but all too often it is dominated by the males, while the girls will often destroy the boys at cartwheels and handstands. But, on the bowling green they find a level playing field and love the fact that anyone can actually draw the shot. The real problem causing some ladies to not enjoy mixed pennant is that some ladies simply do not want to play against men. Why wouldn’t a sport promote such interaction and sense of equality rather than use gender as a means of dividing opinions? Why should gender be more impor- tant than age or ability/disability? There are others who will argue more coherently than this brief piece has done - but, in looking to the future, we need to assess all sides of the argument. Peter Hanlon Lawn Order Lawn OrderLeading The Way Leading The Way Leading The Way