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Bowls In Focus : June July 2011
38 Bowls In Focus Three Of The Best Last August when the first of my columns was published, I wrote of my intention to profile some interest- ing personalities I’ve come across both on and off the bowling green. Naturally, having competed at state and international level for so many years and having played in literally hundreds of invitation events along the way, there is a long list of people who fit the bill. However, I’d like to tell you about three blokes I’ve had the pleasure of bowling alongside, who have also distinguished themselves for their outstanding off-green contri- butions to the sport. Over recent years former dual state singles champion Mark Cowan, who is still a fine player in his own right, has become the country’s top technical official and best-known big match marker. He took on the role of Bowls Australia’s national officiating director following the sad passing of Doug Corben, and since that time has added his own affable style to a responsibility that must be very demanding. As a marker he has no peer and ‘Ecka’, as he is known to his friends, enjoys the absolute trust and respect of the world’s finest players. His quick-fire responses to questions and exacting judgment of head situations has set him apar t from all others. And it needs to be known that our techni- cal officials are rated as the best in the world. Mark has officiated in just about every major singles final on Australian earth over the past decade, with the men’s gold medal match at the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games being a highlight. As a competitor he won state singles crowns in 1994 and 1998, and played 232 games for Victoria after making his debut against South Aus- tralia at Murray Bridge in 1992. I’m proud to note that 125 of those state representations were in my team, and in unison with our rinkmates we enjoyed a win-loss ratio that was second-to-none. Another former great to also make his state debut in 1992 is Graeme Bridge, who these days occupies the position of Bowls Victoria operations manager. Among the many responsibilities he oversees is the conduct of pen- nant and major events, while in other areas such as greens, umpires & laws and member awards; he works closely with the newly formed com- mittees. A long-time Victorian representa- tive, his debut was against the ACT at Canberra’s Yowani club, the first of 214 appearances. Again, I’m proud to tell you that 142 of them were also in my rink, along with our great mate ‘Ecka’. Graeme’s career highlight would no doubt be the Australian singles championship victory he claimed by beating West Australian Geoff Oakley in the final at Corowa in 1993, while he captured the Victorian singles crown in the same year, having won the state Champion of Champions title in 1992. Ironically, it was in that same year that I first met David Allen, the founder, editor and publisher of this magazine. However, in contrast to Mark and Graeme, I only managed to play with him a couple of times, he’s actually a pretty handy bowler. I well remember one of those rare occasions many years ago, when we teamed with a Scotsman named Alistair Rankine in the annual Cup Day triples at City of Frankston. In the first round we were matched up against three crafty old stagers from up the bush and I was clowning around, as I did too frequently in those days. David quietly told me we shouldn’t take them lightly as he knew their reputations. We led them 11-0 after three ends, so at the next crossover I brashly told him; ‘You’ve got to be kidding, this is like taking candy from a baby’. We didn’t score again and went down by a dozen or so. I learned a great lesson that day and have never underestimated an opponent since. Similarly, I learned that David is a man of quietly spoken wisdom and has an incredible knowl- edge of the game and its players, not only here but also around the world. Over more then two decades he’s done it all in bowls and enjoys the respect and admiration of everyone in the game. In my travels as state manager of BCiB (Bowling Club Insurance Brokers), I visit hundreds of clubs each year and all echo my sentiments about the great man and their appreciation of this magazine. There are stories of the small clubs he has helped attract local media coverage, prepare sponsorship proposals or given advice on how to improve their major events, and the big shiny places that have benefited from his exper tise. Only last month well-known Moama administrator Bootes Plowman told me how an edi- torial by David has re-energised their May Carnival and that entries were up 40% as a result this year. His stories and photos portray bowls better than anyone else in the world. A colleague once said he’s so good at what he does that it seems there’s nothing to it. Perhaps that’s what earned him an award from the international Who’s Who organisation, recognising his ‘lifetime of excellence in journalism and publishing’. So there you are folks. Just three of the special people I have had the fortune to share a green with. But these are three of the best. We’re lucky to have them. • Circa 1992: Yours truly and Mark Cowan in glorious black and white prior to one our earliest state games. 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August September 2011