New City of Geelong Bowls Club enjoys successful honeymoon season after merger

GEELONG’S newest bowls club is pushing forward with its plan to build the region’s best centre for the sport, and enjoying a fine honeymoon season on the rink.

The City of Geelong Bowls Club was formed last year when the Geelong West and Drumcondra clubs merged, both selling their lucrative, but cramped, inner-suburban estate.

In its maiden season as a merged entity, the club has three of its nine teams in grand finals in coming days. It’s Division 1 team plays for the premiership on Saturday, its Premier League team is in the decider on Sunday and its Division 7 team chases glory on Tuesday.

Chairman Peter McLean said it was a great start, acknowledging the courage it took for the founding clubs to merge.

“We’ve blended pretty well together, both on and off the greens, and a testament to that is the fact we have three teams in grand finals,” he said.

But while its players seek success in coming days, the club is after a much bigger prize.

When applications closed this week, it was one of the contenders for a slice of round three of the Federal Government’s National Stronger Regions Fund.

It has applied for $4.25 million towards an $11.3 million planned lawn bowls super centre to neighbour the Geelong Golf Club at North Geelong.

After selling both the Geelong West and Drumcondra sites, the club plans to contribute $6.2 million to the project, alongside a $650,00 promise it secured from the state government when the Coalition was in power.

The NSRF is the same fund the Royal Geelong Yacht Club is trying to secure $9 million from for its planned waterfront revamp.

Mr McLean said the club unsuccessfully applied for round two of the NSRF, but was encouraged to reapply, and confident it now had a compelling case.

“Geelong is the largest bowls region in Victoria and fifth-largest in Australia. We have almost 5000 registered players and 20,000 participants each year, but we don’t have a regional centre that meets the changing trends in our sport,” he said.

“The misconception is that bowls is an old fart’s game. But the Australian men’s champion (Aaron Teys) is 21, and the women’s champion (Ellen Ryan) is 18, and, whether its barefoot bowls, corporate competitions or other social events, people are rushing to play the sport. It’s not an old fart’s game any more.”

Earlier plans had the club building an indoor facility, but Mr McLean said the latest plan was for three well-covered outdoor, synthetic rinks with lighting and terraced spectator areas.

Government MP for Corangamite Sarah Henderon has written a letter supporting the club’s application to the NSRF, as has Bowls Victoria, which has indicated it would hold major events at the centre if it were built.

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