Bowled over by top effort
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.