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Bowls In Focus : February 2011
34 Bowls In Focus And Not A Drop To Drink Last month I had arranged to inspect new syn- thetic greens at Natimuk, Jeparit and Rainbow and had inspected the green at Natimuk the day before the low part of the township was flooded. The next day, after continuous heavy overnight rain, I travelled to Dimboola to find that the Jeparit Road was closed. Not to be deterred it was on to Nhill with many sections of the Western Highway flooded but not too deep as I could see the white centre line through the muddy water. There were no signs at Nhill to say the Jeparit Road was closed so off I went again, crossing many lightly flooded sections and thinking ‘this is good as I am still ahead of schedule’. Alas, I came across a rather large flooded area with water up to the top of the fence posts and decided enough was enough and turned back. Out came the mobile phone to tell the Jeparit boys I couldn’t get through, only to find out that this was a poor reception area so I finished up at Nhill where there was still no reception and resorted using the old telephone system. There were still a number of crops to be harvest- ed, but with the following rain and saturated pad- docks many of these, if they could be harvested, would have very poor quality grain. It’s just one of the many tribulations and setbacks the rural sector of our community have to put up with yet they still maintain a sense of humour. Natimuk Bowling Club was on my visiting list when I was with the Turf Research Institute and I have seen the changes over many years from one bent grass green to two, then changing over to Tifdwarf couch. This meant more visits to help the volunteers in the changeover to a new grass with different management practices. This was the period when all of the bowling clubs in the Wimmera Association were changing from bent to couch grass. Finally on to stage three with the installation of a synthetic green and the question I always ask is why? The introduction of severe water restrictions meant the club had to decide how to best utilise the available water and the result was to close one green. A further complication was the deteriorat- ing water quality and the end result being a poorer playing surface. Advice was being received from a competent greenkeeper, which was appreciated, but with the increased costs of fer tilisers, fungicides, pesti- cides and machinery maintenance, plus ageing volunteers and the most important issue being the shortage of volunteers it was decided to proceed with the installation of a synthetic surface. This was possible because of the availability of grants, but in the future these will not be as freely available as they were during the recent years of drought conditions. This is a typical story of small country and some city clubs. Do they struggle on and quietly fade away or do they change; and in many instances increase memberships where previously possible new members were reluctant to join because they didn’t want to be involved in green maintenance. Volunteering at many bowling clubs is not readily offered these days with the attitude being ‘I pay my annual subscription and that is that’. Bowls is one of the cheapest sports and since its inception it has been the volunteers who have been the mainstay of successful clubs by keeping membership fees low in comparison with other sports. Turf Talk Turf Talk Victorian Greenkeepers Association The Big Wet Over the past year Victoria has received a drench- ing with record amounts of rain falling all over the state. The state recorded above average rainfall for the first time in over a decade with all the water storages filling rapidly and all the rivers throughout the state flowing at rates not seen in years. While the rainfall was welcome news to green keepers as the water restrictions were eased and what seems to be the end of the drought, there were many bowls clubs throughout the state that were effected by flooding. It seems so long ago, but back in early September 2010, many parts of the state had huge amounts of rain. One of the areas hit severely was central Victorian with many rivers flooding out into nearby townships. The Benalla Bowls Club wasn’t spared and the overflowing Broken River caused great dam- age. On 4 September ten inches of rain fell which put its two Tiftdwarf and two synthetic greens a meter under water. Club greenkeeper Brent O’Rouke told me that the sight was devastating. They had to use six pumps to remove water from the greens and what was found underneath wasn’t a pretty sight. Mud and filth cov- ered all the greens and the huge clean-up began. One of the grass greens was back in play im- mediately with the club then deciding it was a good time to plan to re-surface the other grass green. Five months on and both synthetic surfaces were still out of play with one of the greens to be relayed this month. Unfortunately, with both synthetics out, the wear on the grass green was multiplied but is holding up okay. With the new grass green being re-planted and the synthetic surfaces being repaired the club hopes to get back on track very soon. As many clubs were drying out after the heavy September deluge, four months later the rains hit again, this time the heaviest falls in North West Victoria. What many locals are calling the ‘flood of the century’, when over nine inches fell on an already soaked landscape, wiping out towns and flooding everything in its path. The small town of Bridgewater, 40km north/west of Bendigo, was hit hard. Club president Ian Ball said that his beloved club was preparing to celebrate its 75th anniversary this year when in mid January more than a metre of water went through the entire club, destroying everything. The club was about to open its new Tiftdwarf green when the floods occurred and both grass greens were under water for more than two days. No natural draining was occurring so pumps were used to remove the water and revealed 4-6 inches of mud and slime over the greens. After a lot of hard work one of the greens was re-open soon after, while the new green will hopefully be ready for bowls later this month. Shane Harling, a greenkeeper in the Bendigo region, said he has never seen anything like it, add- ing that no news reports on the TV can adequately describe the devastation and that the smell was disgusting. Many bowling clubs across the state including Creswick, Rochester, Charlton and many more are counting the cost, especially those with synthetic surfaces. Stawell Bowls Club has two synthetic greens that were destroyed by the floods in January. Secretary Don Webb said that the flood came unexpectedly early in the morning and covered the greens with filthy water, mud, rocks and debris. One synthetic green was completely destroyed and will have to be totally reconstructed; the other still has a couple of rinks that can be played on but not to standard. Work will start shortly to rebuild the greens. The heartache that clubs and greenkeepers have endured over the past few months would be hard to describe, while the problems they have faced and conquered have been amazing. No doubt there are many more stories similar to these. Greenkeepers such as Brent O’Rouke and the many others should be congratulated for their efforts to get their greens back in play as soon as possible and we send our best wishes to the clubs throughout the state that suffered due to the Big Wet. - Warren Maynard VGA Vice President • A sample of some of the flood devastation at Benalla Bowls Club.
March April 2011