Meet Brian: Disability Bowls Volunteer

by Darci Tierney

In this month’s Bowler with a Disability article, we showcase a dedicated volunteer involved with disability bowls.

Brian Rennex began playing bowls in 1997; the year that the Moonee Valley Bowls, Cricket and Footy Clubs amalgamated to form the Moonee Valley Sporting Club. Brian was lucky enough to be the Football Club President at the time, which meant he was well and truly involved in this process. The Bowls Club benefited significantly from the amalgamation as quiet a number of Football Club members made the switch over to the Bowls Club, including Brian and his family. A few years down the track Brian became highly involved in the Bowls Club, holding numerous positions and eventually becoming President. In 2013/14 he was honoured with a Life Membership at the Bowls Club.

Brian states “the Bowls Club is quite unique as we pride ourselves on being a family orientated club, which bases its membership around all ages and disabilities, which ultimately forms strong friendships with everyone around the club.” The data proves that their unique outlook on membership and welcoming culture of the club is attractive. 20% of the club’s members are below 25 and the average age of a bowler at the club is 50 years old.

In 2001, Brian met Joe Hebaiter through the Football Club. Joe had joined the newly formed disabled football team who were playing in the FIDA competition, a league for footballers with an Intellectual Disability. Joe played football for 5 years and during this time in Summer he would come across to the Bowls Club and help out. Joe operated the overall scoreboards for all teams and helped with any task he could around the Club. In 2007, the Club started a winter bowls competition, which provided the perfect pathway for Joe to take up bowls. “It took some time to get Joe’s delivery right, but once he started he loved it more and more and found a new career in which he loved” says Brian.

Joe Hebaiter and Anthony Lipec (centre).

In 2015, Joe met Anthony Lipec through courses they had both taken part in. Joe decided the right thing to do was ask Anthony to come and try out bowls. “Anthony then fell in love with the sport and his dedication towards the sport has been outstanding, playing as much as he can including midweek, night and Saturday pennants, also practicing every Thursday to try and improve himself. The boys also love participating in club events including the singles and pairs, Joe playing with myself and Anthony playing with friend Patricia” says Brian.

We asked Brian why he is so passionate about disability bowls; “to be involved in helping Joe and Anthony becoming better in life and enjoy a sport they love has made myself so proud. Bowls is a sport where any match or competition you meet different people of any age, gender or disability and the opportunities for disabled bowlers that are available in Victoria are outstanding. It’s just a shame as you would think there would be many people out there with disabilities that should be getting involved in the sport.

What I see firsthand with the families and friends that are a part of the disabled bowls community is outstanding and maybe all other disability associations should be looking at getting down to bowls clubs and participating in this great sport. Finally, the events that Bowls Victoria hold throughout the year are outstanding and the committee should be congratulated. All the helpers and volunteers that make these events happen and run so smoothly should be congratulated also.”

Joe and Anthony love travelling to all events, particularly the State Disabilities Championships in Bendigo, as well as the Integrated Pairs where Joe teams up with Brian’s son Josh, and Anthony teams up with friend Trish. Brian drives Joe and Anthony to most of their disability bowls events.

Brian is a passionate club man and volunteer, whose support for Joe and Anthony is admirable.