Alison East: A Disability Bowler On the Move
Ten years ago, Alison East began experiencing the early symptoms of what doctors would later diagnose as HSP (Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia). More recently, Alison has become a welcome addition to Bowls Victoria’s Physical Disability (PD) Squad, bringing her work ethic, positivity and cheerful nature to the greens at every opportunity.
“I have been playing bowls for 15 years now and I wish I’d started even earlier. I love bowls so much! On the bowling green everyone is involved, you can see the next rink and have a chat. It’s such a friendly game,” she says.
Last November, Alison and her team from Balmoral Bowling Club went to the Victorian Open in Shepparton, where she played Mixed Pairs and went up against Barry Brennan from the Victoria squad.
“After the game, Barry suggested that I try disability bowls. Two days later I was playing triples at Shepparton Park where I met Lyn Baker, who is also involved with Victorian disability bowls, and after the game she introduced me to Carol Protopapas (coach of the Victorian Physical Disabilities Squad). It all started from there!”
Shortly after the Victoria Open, Alison attended the Colac All Abilities Training Day (2 Dec, 2018), an event held to give people in Western Victoria the opportunity to attend a training day and meet the state coaches. It is also held to celebrate International Day of People with Disability. Here Alison met Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Ken Hanson, who is an inspiration to all Australian bowls enthusiasts.
The next training day took place at Deer Park Bowls Club in March 2019, where Alison was classified as a PD bowler. Once classified, bowlers are able to compete in State, National and International bowls events. Two weeks later, Alison received an email informing her she had been picked to represent Victoria.
“I was ecstatic! Even though I was so happy, I tried to keep calm. I think the girls at Balmoral looked even more excited about it than I did,” she says.
Silver (R. Shirley Ivanovic) and Bronze (L. Alison East) B7.8 Singles
In April, Alison competed at the 2019 Multi Disabilities Championships in Bendigo at Golden Square Bowls Club and Bendigo East Bowls Club. This event is the state championships for bowlers with disabilities (BwD).
In May, Alison was part of the Victorian state team to contest the Multi-Bowl Nationals in Mackay. She competed in the Open Triples, B7/8 Singles and Women’s Open Pairs, winning bronze in the B7/8 Singles against teammate Janet Morrison.
“Everyone played so well, we brought home so many medals! We won the overall aggregate cup by 2 points,” she says. “Carol and Josh Barry received the cup with such pride, the smiles on their faces and our whole team was so priceless! Even when we were boarding the plane the next day, Josh wouldn’t let the cup out of his sight.”
A sport for everyone
Alison believes that accessibility and inclusivity are among the sport’s major strengths.
“Anyone can get involved in bowls, young or old, whatever disability you might have. One of the best things about being involved with a physical disability team is that no one judges you and everyone is equal,” she says.
“My own involvement with disability bowls happened so fast. Sometimes it’s all about who you meet on the bowling green!”