Courtney Gabb: The Spirit and Face of Bowls for ‘This Girl Can’ Campaign

by Kalon Huett (BV Contributor)

In 2007, at the age of 17, Courtney Gabb was diagnosed with Epilepsy and told she would no longer be able to play contact sport. For a sporty teenager like Courtney, it felt like a life sentence. And while she may have been a somewhat reluctant participant at first, Courtney soon got hooked on lawn bowls. So hooked, in fact, that the St Kilda Bowls Club (St Kilda Chicks) player and Victorian representative was selected to be the face of lawn bowls for This Girl Can, the VicHealth campaign encouraging women of all ages and backgrounds to get physically active.

“I’ve always loved sport, but a few setbacks meant I had difficulties participating in a lot of my regular sports like netball, basketball and surfing,” Courtney explains. “A friend of mine suggested lawn bowls and once I actually started playing, I immediately fell in love with the sport and the positive energy it generated in me.”


Becoming an ambassador

Last year the 28-year-old successfully applied and auditioned for the role of This Girl Can  lawn bowls ambassador after being tagged in a Facebook promotion. “It’s an honour to be ambassador for This Girl Can for VicHealth, and I have loved getting to know the other ambassadors over the last 12 months,” she says. “We all come from different walks of life, yet all have the one thing in common – a love of being active and a desire to help others get involved.”

In 2018 the campaign encouraged one in seven Victorian women to get moving. “This is particularly impressive given VicHealth found that three in five Australian women are not sufficiently active, participating in less than 30 minutes of physical activity on four or more days a week. So we were super impressed with the results and hope we can continue inspiring women to be more active,” she says.


Nothing beats bowls

When it comes to bowls, Courtney can’t think of a better activity for any woman to try. “We know from the VicHealth campaign that 52% of women worry about being judged when exercising, and 41% of Victorian women are too embarrassed or intimidated to get active in the first place. I want those women to know that I’ve found lawn bowls to be a very inclusive and welcoming space. The bowls coaches I’ve worked with have all been fantastic, and will help you to achieve your goals,” she says.

“Bowls doesn’t discriminate. Regardless of your age, gender, size or ability, there is an option for you. Bowls Victoria have blind bowlers, mums with bubs bowls, under 18s, under 25s and over 60s to name just a few. How many people can say that they have played competitive sport with their pop? My grandfather was a fantastic lawn bowler, as is my uncle. My grandfather passed away last year, but I have precious memories of playing in the same team as him and my uncle. The age gap between my grandfather and I was 59 years. I am so very privileged to have experienced such a feat.”

As well as being a rewarding physical activity, bowls offers plenty of other benefits for women, according to Courtney. “I have played a lot of different sports, but lawn bowls is by far the most social sport you can get involved in. I have made life-long friends of all different ages. Bowls can be played at a social level or it can cater to your competitive side,” she says.


Personal gains

Significantly, Courtney’s own ambitions have been boosted by her involvement with This Girl Can. “Being part of the campaign has inspired me to increase my physical activities. I now have a personal trainer (Joe Davis) whom I see at least once a week. Joe has designed the perfect workout for my condition and helps me achieve my goals,” she says. “As my fitness has increased, Joe suggested I start Kettle Fit class, which I now attend weekly. My personal goal is to get all the women in my life to become active. Whether it be walking to the shops instead of driving, parking further from the door, or joining a sports club, all of it counts towards increasing activity.”

Does Courtney have a final message for Victorian women? “Remember, the name of the campaign is your potential game for life – this girl can. Remind yourself daily that in work, family, social or sporting environments, you can do anything you put your mind to.”


Get involved

If you’re looking for some encouragement to start, this year VicHealth are running This Girl Can Week (18-24 March 2019) which aims to encourage more women to give physical activity a go or return to exercise after a break. There will be a range of fun, free or low-cost activities hosted by gyms and sports clubs across the state, tailored to women and girls who want to get active but aren’t sure about how to take the first step.

Women wanting to get involved can visit to find out more and search for activities and events in their local area.