Meet the CEO: Q&A with Tony Sherwill

by Kalon Huett (BV Contributor)

Former Bowls Australia Chief Operating Officer, Tony Sherwill commenced his position as the Chief Executive Officer of Bowls Victoria on 1 July 2019.

As a highly credentialed administrator and 15-year veteran of the sport, Sherwill has played a significant role in the success of the Jackaroos on the International stage as well as growing participation numbers at all levels. In a sense the new CEO is returning home, having worked for Bowls Victoria in the past.

We spoke to Sherwill about his new role, objectives for the organisation, and the future of the sport in our state.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your professional background?

I’m just a humble boy from the bush! Born in Echuca, I lived in the North East of Victoria until the age of 18 when I first moved to Melbourne. I first worked in the club/hotel/gaming industry, starting at the Fitzroy Football Club Social Club quite some time ago. I spent some years in hospitality before going to university as a mature age student (not sure I was that mature!) to study a Bachelor of Commerce, majoring in Sports Management and Financial Planning. I have since completed further study with the Melbourne Business School and am a Graduate of the Australian Institute of Company Directors. In a work sense, once I graduated University I was employed by the RVBA/VLBA as a Club Development Officer and later Development Manager before moving to Bowls Australia where I have been for the last 11 years, most recently as Chief Operating Officer.

Why were you excited to take up the position of CEO at Bowls Victoria?

To be honest, I consider it a massive thrill to lead an organisation with such history, dating all the way back to 1880. I’m excited to be involved in bowls and personally see it as the most inclusive sport on offer. Then there’s the challenge … the challenge of always improving and taking our sport from being great to even better. I see this as a great opportunity to work alongside the Bowls Victoria Board to ensure the future growth of our sport.

How have you settled in to your new role and what has the experience been like so far?

So far so good, everyone has been very kind and helpful. I’m pretty fortunate that I knew many of the staff, volunteers and players so I’ve been able to hit the ground running. I really think that was a big advantage given I’ve come from the industry previously so am able to get straight into it.

What are the most significant opportunities for Bowls Victoria and the sport in general?

There are many, which puts us in good stead. I will be looking to enhance our relationship with government, recognising that we already receive terrific support from Local and State Government. Our sport brings communities together – which is great for us, but also great for government.

A key opportunity is tailoring the way we offer bowls to a new audience – we can’t just offer one product, we need to cater for modern needs. The ability to watch the best bowlers can also be enhanced for a bowls tragic like me i.e. formats of competition that enable the opportunity to watch the best in Victoria on a regular basis.

Then there’s BowlsLink – a significantly improved system for online membership and competition management, which is going to be very exciting and much better for players, clubs and volunteers.

And I make no secret that we have an opportunity to provide assistance for our state teams to win more silverware. Any chance to beat SA, QLD, NSW etc is something to strive for!

What challenges are you facing and how do you plan to overcome them?

I prefer to think of them as different opportunities rather than challenges. Bowls in Victoria is in good shape, but imagine how good we could be if we didn’t have a resistance to change; or if there wasn’t any negativity from those unwilling to see the opportunities in front of them?

We also have the opportunity to be a bit more nimble in our decision making – the way we react to change will determine how successful we are.

To achieve anything it relies on getting people with the right skill sets involved, whether that’s at the club, regional or state level. So if you have something to offer, sing out. We’re always looking for the right people to assist.

What is your vision for bowls in Victoria?

In a word: growth. Whether that’s members, participants, silverware, sponsors, government support, club utilisation or one of many other metrics, we should be constantly growing.

We can’t afford to have the attitude of doing the same thing as last season, in reality, that’s going backwards. I see us as being successful in the future by being more like an industry. Don’t get me wrong, all clubs should be competing against each other on the green, but off the green, we’re all fighting for the same cause. The more we work together the better.

Is there anything else you would like to mention?

I’d like to reiterate, we’re generally in good shape, but if we’re going to improve and grow, it starts with an adjustment of attitude. That means you … every time someone asks you about bowls, promote it. Don’t tell that story of that one time seven years ago when something happened that isn’t a good advertisement … talk about the thousands of good things that happen on a regular basis. You as an individual are the best advertisement we will ever have, so talk positively and proudly – I know I will.