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Bowls In Focus : June July 2011
16 Bowls In Focus He’s been described as a combina- tion of, Daley Thompson, Fred Astaire and Gandhi, but well-known Armadale bowler and development coach Graeme Spencer considers himself to be just an ordinary bloke. Fact is the 58-year-old journey- man, who apart from forty successful years on the flat greens of bowls has excelled in four other fields of sporting endeavour, is anything but ordinary. Sure, in 2000 he reached the state singles final at Sunbury where he lost narrowly to Benalla’s Bill Corne- hls, who would go on to win a gold medal for Australia in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games. Plus there’s his victory in the Deniliquin Classic Pairs with great mate Geoff Maskell a couple of years ago, and the three Bosisto Shield winning teams he has played in. And there’s been a long list of club, association and group title wins along the way, bowling with and against many of the state’s household names, during his stints with the Ballarat East, Carnegie, Brighton, Black Rock, Long Island, MCC and Kew Heights clubs. But it is helping new prospects to become the best they can be as a tu- tor and mentor that gives him the most stimulation these days. As develop- ment coach at Armadale, Graeme sees his role as identifying a group of rising talents to work closely with in all facets of the game and assist in realis- ing their potential. It was probably this type of encouragement and selfless support that propelled him into the limelight in competitive Quoits, Tenpin Bowling, Darts and Ballroom Dancing. With its origins in Ancient Greece, the dictionary describes a quoit as ‘a flattened ring of iron for throwing at a mark’, but these days quoits are made of rope, and the ‘mark’ is a peg, although it’s still just as hard to get those rings over it. By the time he reached the ripe old age of six Graeme was playing competitively, after following his dad around the halls of central Victoria for a year or so. It was perhaps an unusual hobby for a child, but it paid dividends. In 1991 he won the Australian Rope Quoits Cham- pionship when he defeated seven-times winner John Sprout 1083 to 1080, scoring 349, 387 and 347, in only three visits to the peg. His best-ever break was 1061. For those of you who don’t know much about the sport, it means Graeme threw quoits over the peg 1061 times without missing. Needless to say, he won that competition too, and by the time he put his rope rings away for the final time he had claimed the national title on three occasions. Considered Ballarat’s top tenpin bowler in his era, Graeme rose to prominence in 1979 when he won the Victorian Country A Grade Singles Championship at Morwell, with a game high of 289 during the series. That score represents full-count strikes on all but one of the frames in a game, an incredible performance requiring huge doses of mental toughness and exceptional powers of concentration and skill. Those assets would have also contributed to his success on the dartboard, where his surefire aim and judgment won him five consecutive A Grade Championships while play- ing for the Dragons club in Ballarat. Ironically, most top darts competitions, including the rich professional circuit in the UK, are usually contested at pubs and clubs, but Graeme is actually a non-drinker. Although in recent times his quoits, bowling ball and darts rarely see the light of day, Graeme still has an abiding love of ballroom dancing and will launch into a foxtrot, waltz or tango with partner Barbara at any given oppor- tunity. And it was this passion for tripping the light fantastic that saw him as one of the state’s top perform- ers between 1967 and 1979. A master of three disciplines, Latin American, Ballroom and Old-Time, he was a finalist in the 1978 Australian Championships at Festival Hall, while he has also gained much satisfac- tion from teach- ing promising students the skills and artistry of contemporary dancing. And the ‘Gandhi’ tag? Well, most people who know him well speak of his high principles and conviction to the karma and serenity of a well- balanced existence, while his love of nature and the environment brand him as a modern-day evangelist of all that is good in life. This is no ‘ordinary’ bloke. - David Allen A Man For All Seasons • Left: Multi-skilled Graeme Spencer with some of the trophies he has accumulated in five different sports. • Above: Spencer in action during the 2010 Deniliquin Pairs Classic win he shared with Geoff Maskell.
August September 2011