Each month we showcase a Bowler with a Disability (BWD). We bring you their story and discuss their thoughts on the opportunities available to BWD.
Paul Kearney started his bowls journey in his 20s after having to face the fact he wasn’t likely to ever “cut it” as a golfer, footballer or cricketer! With his dad Brian joining in, they learned the intricacies of the game by the great members at Mulgrave Country Club. At the time Paul was working as a gardener at Springvale Crematorium and he enjoyed being able to socialize at the Bowls Club.
Paul moved to Moama, on the border between Victoria and New South Wales in 1994, just as his Bowls was taking off. Echuca-Moama has provided Paul a strong Bowls community, where the warm sunny climate and busy Bowls event calendar has kept him active. He has been a member at both Rich River Bowls Club and Mathoura Bowls Club. He won Club Championship Pairs at Rich River with his dad Brian, and again with his dad at Mathoura in 2011/20112. He won again at Mathoura in 2013/2014 with Mick Toll.
Paul established a particularly special bond with Geoff Cameron, himself a State Bowler, and sometimes joined in the sessions when Geoff was coaching National Champion Clare Duke, also from Moama. This year, he made it through to Quarter Finals in Pairs at Rich River but the season is currently on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Staying home is not Paul’s cup of tea!
It’s lucky Paul has last year’s Multi Bowl Nationals to reflect on! Prior to 2019, despite his lifelong disability, Paul had never participated in any disability sports. In his younger years, he was determined to compete in mainstream, and did not identify as disabled. After being approached by a local bowler Barry Brennan to join the trials, Paul decided that he would give it a go. Perhaps being older and wiser, he finally realized that the standard of competition was high. He was selected in the Victorian State team in class B6.
He had the most fabulous week in Mackay with the team and was widely admired for his contagious smile. Paul won a Bronze medal in the Triples, and a Gold medal in the Pairs with his partner Lucas Protopapas. The Gold medal final went down to the last end against the Queensland team. Paul was particularly proud that he managed to hold his nerve under pressure, because his cerebral palsy has always made that challenging. Now he is hooked, and he hopes one day there will be more disability events for him to compete in.
The social connections bowls has created are by far the best part for Paul.
“I just love the friendly competition and the fun I have on the green”, he said. For the last 15 years, Paul has spent the winter months on the Gold Coast, where he plays at Tugun Bowls Club. He is well known there, and members look forward to him turning up with a big smile. Last year he introduced his 16-year-old nephew, Angus to the club. They played social pairs together and didn’t stop laughing.
Article courtesy Brian Kearney and Nicola Baldwin.
For more stories about our Victorian bowlers with a disability, please click here.
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