Former VFL Player & CEO Ross Oakley Now Loving Bowls at Albert Park
Ross Oakley is a firm believer that bowls is a game for all types of people at all stages of life. In the peak of an impressive yet injury-plagued Victorian Football League (VFL) career with St Kilda Football Club in the 1960s, it’s fair to say current Albert Park Bowls Club President Ross Oakley didn’t see himself becoming an avid lawn bowls enthusiast some five decades down the track. Even much later in life, during a productive decade as Chairman and CEO of the VFL/AFL from 1986 to 1996, or as recently as the 21st century in retirement age, Oakley had still yet to discover his passion for the game of bowls.
However, all that changed four years ago when the former footballer and sports administrator received a flyer in the mailbox promoting an open day and membership package at Albert Park Bowls Club, located in Melbourne’s St Vincent Gardens and just five minutes Oakley’s home.
“I got to the stage of not being able to play golf because of my knee problems, which stemmed back to my football days, so my wife Christine suggested that we both sign up to play bowls at Albert Park as it was an activity we could do together,” Oakley recalls.
Oakley now practises bowls on average four-to-five times a week, usually between 3:00 pm and 6:00 pm on weekdays, as well as Pennant competitions during the season on both Saturdays and Tuesdays. He has also been the Club President for the past three years.
A sport for everybody
Oakley is a firm believer that bowls is a game for all types of people at all stages of life.
“Bowls provides my aging body with some mild exercise, the opportunity to develop a new skill using my natural hand-eye co-ordination, a competitive outlet and a new social experience with like-minded local residents. For the ‘slightly older’ generations, bowls is clearly a wonderful passive sport to adopt. It has helped me personally to maintain my mobility despite the wear and tear of my football career,” he enthuses.
“There are also many young people that do not have the physical capacity to play fast contact sports, so bowls does offer them a genuine alternative. We have even agreed to set up a bowls academy for the local college students that may be interested in a more passive sports involvement.”
Participation & sponsorship initiatives
With such a dedicated and highly experienced administrator at the helm, Albert Park Bowls Club has enjoyed great success with its open days and Play Bowls Month activities in recent years.
“Everyone needs an event or trigger to give them the reason to take that first step into a new activity, and a community open day is an ideal way to get locals involved in bowls. Then if people are well received at the club they are more likely to become members,” he says.
“This year we have organised two open days at Albert Park Bowls Club in October which we will promote via a letterbox drop of leaflets around the local area. The leaflets have all been paid for by our local real estate agent, Cayzer.”
As Club President, Oakley has used his business expertise and connections to establish these types of commercial partnerships for the Bowls Club, which can prove hugely beneficial to long-term financial sustainability.
“All Bowls Clubs can offer value for local business organisations. There are not many options for businesses trying to achieve a low-cost, specific connection to their local customers, but Bowls Clubs have the advantage of providing that local market appeal,” he says.