Why Pennant must stop for the Vic Open
Why is it so important for no Pennant to be played in Victoria during the Vic Open?
If you are a true Pennant player, you make a commitment to your club and your team to be available each week.
You accept where you are selected whether you agree or not, and normally play with the same players each week.
For this reason alone you would not be able to enter the Vic Open.
For one week in the season at the Vic Open, you have freedom of choice to play with and compete against bowlers from anywhere.
There is no selection. The bowler selects which events they will play in and who they bowl with.
This event is not just about the bowls. Many people renew and make new friendships.
Over the four days of sectional play, we had 2,196 bowlers at the 17 venues. Many stayed on to watch the further knockout rounds and finals. It was fantastic to see and be a part of. Many said they had a renewed interest in our sport and could now understand why they started playing in the first place.
With a blanket ban on Pennant and state events, it does not mean that you cannot play bowls. For example, at my club they had a No Pennant Pairs day for people not attending the Open and this was how it was advertised. I also know many others had tournaments, which is fantastic. Again, freedom of choice.
We know that the Open is not for everyone. But we have to support the players who want to enter.
Many events are for the elite. The Vic Open is for all and grassroots bowlers were amazed at how well they competed, and grassroots bowlers featured in the finals.
One of the ladies in the winning triples team thought she was not good enough to compete in the open.
She now has a Vic Open Triples Gold Medal. She said she would be entering more of the events next year and would encourage others to enter.
I received a message from a bowler who competed in three events and won his section in two. But his greatest moments was when he played with Viv from Geelong whom he had never met before against Nathan Wilson and Chloe Stewart. This game meant the most to him. He said he never gets the opportunity to play these players.
Bowlers thanked Bowls Victoria, the regions and divisions for not having Pennant that week. Because if Pennant was on, they would not be able to enter.
Our climate has changed and our greens are empty when we have great weather and our greens are at their best. Why can’t Pennant go for an extra week?
The Vic Open is not just about bowlers. We had record numbers of ITOs and umpires who came to the event to officiate as volunteers. This helps them to further their experience and benefits the sport.
I played against a grandmother of one of our new Under 18 squad members in Pennant last week. She went to watch her granddaughter play in the Open, as she thought she was not good enough to compete. By watching, she is now going to enter next year and encourage others from her club to enter.
To gain sponsorship, you need to prove that you have something to give back. This event does that and we receive great media coverage including TV. It makes people think about bowls. Those who were at the event and in regional Victoria saw the great coverage on WIN TV, and via local media like the Shepparton News and Bendigo Advertiser, featuring two-page spreads daily for most of the tournament.
Bowls Victoria’s website had more than 140,000 page views during the seven days of the Open. We usually get 100,000 views in a month! Our e-newsletter Heads Up was read by more than 5,000 people every day during the Open. Bowls Victoria’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram coverage, plus live streaming of matches including the women’s singles final on smartphone app Periscope were all well patronised and well received. There is clearly a huge appetite for finding out what happens at the Open.
It is a promotion and real showcase of our game. What other event in any other sport has increased its entries by around 60% in two calendar years?
We are the only State that has an Open. We want to promote and market our great sport and the Vic Open is a fantastic tool for this, as it proves that bowls is a sport that delivers its promises when seeking sponsorship.
Many people from within our sport throughout Australia and other sporting organisations are asking how we have kept increasing the event. A delegation came from South Australia to see our event in action. They want to run an Open in SA as ours has been so successful. The event is being recognised by others. Why can’t all divisions and regions support the event and encourage bowlers to enter?
All members of the boards within our Divisions and Regions are all volunteers and all put a lot of time, thought and energy into what is best for our sport, as do the members of the Board of Bowls Victoria.
We all want what is best for bowls in Victoria and although we might not agree with everything, we are all empowered to promote and support the decisions made by Bowls Victoria.
We all need to work together for the promotion of our sport, not only today but for the future.
And the Vic Open is a great promotion for our sport.
by Barbara Gilbert, Vic Open tournament director