Bowled over by top ef­fort

McIvor Times - - SPORTS - By BARRY CAIL

IN THE end, it was an event that drew a com­mu­nity to­gether to show that it cared.

Heathcote Bowl­ing Club’s in­no­va­tive 24-hour Aus­tralia Day bowls marathon be­came a talk­ing point around the district.

The aim of the marathon was to draw at­ten­tion to the dev­as­tat­ing ill­ness that is mo­tor neu­rone dis­ease, fol­low­ing news that one of the bowlers had been af­flicted.

Apart from rais­ing aware­ness, it was also de­signed to raise some money, to be shared with MND Vic­to­ria, which pro­vides sup­port ser­vices to those who are deal­ing with the dis­ease.

That hun­dreds of peo­ple turned out over the 24 hours is a great re­flec­tion on Aus­tralians and the way they care about oth­ers.

That the marathon raised more than $20,000 showed how deep Aus­tralians are pre­pared to dig when there is a need.

Bowlers came from far and wide, from Col­binab­bin and Rochester, from Geelong and Gis­borne.

They turned up from White Hills, South Bendigo and Ea­gle­hawk and in­cluded some of the best bowlers in the re­gion.

They knew their mate could do with some sup­port and they were there. The oc­ca­sion turned out to be some­thing of a cel­e­bra­tion of bowls, of sport, of mate­ship, and ev­ery­one en­joyed the event.

There were fam­i­lies, from the very young to the very old, there were in­di­vid­u­als who made the trip be­cause they wanted to help.

With the marathon start­ing at 3.15pm on Jan­uary 25, it would fin­ish ex­actly 24 hours later.

Not a mo­ment too soon for some, who had laboured long and hard, up and down the greens.

It started with two young politi­cians — Mem­ber for Bendigo Lisa Ch­esters, who rep­re­sents Heathcote in fed­eral par­lia­ment, and Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan who rep­re­sents Heathcote in state par­lia­ment — get­ting the bowls rolling.

They ad­dressed the gath­er­ing first and not a word was spo­ken about pol­i­tics — it was all about com­ing to­gether to sup­port peo­ple in need.

Both Lisa and Steph en­joyed play­ing bowls with the lo­cals and pretty soon the greens were al­most full.

Teams from Rochester and Geelong were first to play on the rink set aside for the 24-hour marathon, and other games would fol­low with bowlers mov­ing in and out of teams to en­sure that the marathon never fal­tered.

Heathcote vet­eran and club stal­wart El­lis Knight set him­self the am­bi­tious tar­get of bowl­ing one ‘‘end’’ for each of his 80 years.

Demon­strat­ing how the event at­tracted sup­port from many ar­eas, Heathcote Golf Club cap­tain Adrian King also set him­self a goal to re­main avail­able to play for the en­tire 24-hour pe­riod.

Bowlers were happy to pay for the priv­i­lege of play­ing and the $1 per end fee did much to add to the cof­fers.

Fea­ture rinks in­cluded a group from Heathcote Bowl­ing Club which com­prised the four old­est bowlers in the club — Lex Tat­ter­sall, El­lis Knight, Leo Jef­frey and Tom Aylett.

City of Greater Bendigo mayor Rod Fyffe ar­rived dur­ing the evening and en­joyed a les­son from formed club champ Deryl Bin­ney.

Other guests in­cluded Eric Kelly and Kather­ine Nightin­gale from MND Vic­to­ria, and Josh Thorn­ton from Bowls Vic­to­ria.

COGB Cr He­len Leach also paid a visit on Aus­tralia Day af­ter the of­fi­cial Heathcote cer­e­mony in the nearby park­land.

The event had drawn enor­mous sup­port from lo­cal and district busi­nesses, and they were con­stantly recog­nised through­out.

District winer­ies were also keen to sup­port the cause and their wines were ea­gerly sought on the fundrais­ing spin­ning wheel.

Heathcote shi­raz for $2 a spin was an op­por­tu­nity few could re­sist.

At mid­night, there were still six rinks oc­cu­pied un­der lights on the beau­ti­ful Heathcote front green; at 3am, num­bers had dwin­dled to three rinks.

And just when you thought that ev­ery­one should have been tucked up in bed, a team of three bowlers from Rochester turned up, be­cause they thought that was the time that the marathon would need a bit of a hand.

So they played their 10 ends and turned around to head back to Rochy, know­ing that they’d done their bit.

By 5am, a few bowlers be­gan to trickle back onto the green, happy to play their part.

One bowler from Bendigo turned up at 6am, think­ing there would be a short­age and

Barry Cail was stunned to find there were about 30 play­ers on the green.

The cold of the early hours gave way to an­other beau­ti­ful warm Heathcote day and so the marathon wore on to its mag­nif­i­cent con­clu­sion.

The club­house and sur­rounds were crowded with peo­ple who were sim­ply en­joy­ing a ter­rific oc­ca­sion.

The fi­nal bowls were de­liv­ered at 3.15pm by El­lis Knight, play­ing his 80th end, and pop­u­lar club­man Den­nis Glee­son — and they re­turned to the club­house to a tu­mul­tuous roar.

Few would have pre­dicted the out­stand­ing suc­cess of the marathon; no-one doubts that it will go down in Heathcote folk­lore.

Barry Cail is a mem­ber of Heathcote Bowl­ing Club and a for­mer editor of the McIvor Times.

Heathcote Bowl­ing Club pres­i­dent Eileen O’Brien with Mem­ber for Bendigo Lisa Ch­esters. Pho­tos:

Mem­ber for Euroa Steph Ryan, Pete Cun­ning­ham and Bowls Vic­to­ria’s Josh Thorn­ton.

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