2019-20 Awards Night & Hall of Fame. What a night!

by Melanie Allen

Bowls Victoria recently celebrated the first Awards Night & Hall of Fame since becoming an incorporated association (formally held under the RVBA banner), with the event taking place during State Champions Week in Bendigo. It was a full house, and those present became part of a history making ceremony, with the first females were inducted into the BV Hall of Fame. When MC Jack Heverin announced what was about to take place, acknowledging that the inclusion of women into the Hall of Fame was well overdue, the crowd erupted in applause.

The applause didn’t stop there, and history was made when the first Hall of Fame inductee of the night was announced. 106-year-old living legend Edna Harling was rightly the first to receive the honour. A very familiar face within the Goulburn Valley Bowls Division, Edna made her way to the stage unassisted and accepted her award with a grin and her trademark giggle. With her family proudly watching on, Edna had the room in fits of laughter as she happily reminisced about her bowling days. “I’m just happy to be up here with the good bowlers”, said Edna. “There’s a lot of friends you make in bowls. I don’t know, it seems to be the best sport of the lot to me”, and to that the crowd cheered.

Edna fondly remembered her friend Dot Jenkinson, who was the next (posthumous) recipient of the evening to receive the Hall of Fame, remarking that she was just so happy to again see Dot’s son Alan, having not seen him since he was a young boy. Alan proudly accepted Dot’s Hall of Fame award on behalf of the Jenkinson family remarking that, “mum would have been very humble and so proud to be receiving this award”, and he went on to say that his greatest joy of the evening was seeing Edna Harling again, as she was one of his mum’s favourite people.

A further four new members were inducted into the Hall of Fame; Arnold O’Brien OAM, Margaret Sumner OAM, John Snell and Betty Collins. On receiving his award, Arnold remarked, “it’s a great honour to be here tonight, when you start playing bowls don’t think of anything like this ever happening to you”. Arnold said he was fortunate to be fit enough to have just completed his 69th year of bowling and hopes that there will be a few more still to come.

During Margaret Sumner’s acceptance speech, she observed that she was the youngest Hall of Fame recipient of the evening, and at 80 years young it seems bowls might just have something to do with the group’s longevity. Margaret was seen daily during State Champions Week in Bendigo, keenly watching the next generation of bowlers, keeping stats and conversing with the locals and players, and whoever was up for a chat about bowls. She simply loves our sport.

John Snell OAM was unfortunately a late apology and was not able to attend in person, however he did manage to send through a video message that was played to the room, and he was very humble to be inducted into the Hall of Fame. With such a distinguished career to date, most recently having been a part of Lilydale’s winning Division 1 Pennant side, going into Premier Division next season, we’re sure it won’t be the last we hear from the great John Snell.

Finally, the delightful Betty Collins OAM was welcomed into the Hall of Fame. In Betty’s words, “I feel incredibly humble to be up here with these remarkable people. I thought I was doing quite well at 89, but when I look at Edna I feel like a rookie!” Betty’s contributions to the sport of bowls have been wide and varied, a former President of World Bowls, she truly is bowls royalty. “I feel tremendous honour to have been able to add to the sport and all that it has done for so many people, over so many generations”. Betty later said, “bowls was the first sport in Australia to unify men and women together and that’s something I’m pretty proud of, and I hope others are as well,” drawing loud applause from the crowd.

It was wonderful to hear about the lifelong friendships created through bowls – a common theme mentioned by all of the newly inducted Hall of Fame recipients. All the inductees had the audience in awe of their remarkable achievements, and their inspirational words really made the night memorable for all those in the room.

The hotly contested Awards followed the Hall of Fame presentation, and we are pleased to announce the winners in each of the categories below. It was so pleasing to see the camaraderie around the room, old friends catching up post-COVID, and new friends being made. There were many in the room eager to have their photo taken with our Hall of Fame Inductees before the night was through.

President of Moorabbin Bowling Club, John Smith, on receiving the VicSport Club of the Year Award, thanked the club’s ‘blue army’ of volunteers, in particular for their actions during COVID supporting their fellow members. After nearly disbanding 7 years ago, Moorabbin has come a long way in a short time, with great success on and off the green in recent years, and the future looks incredibly bright (almost as bright as the amazing new mural adorning the club’s entrance).

Peter Bowman was duly honoured with the Volunteer of the Year Award, with special mention paid to his efforts helping to get the BowlsLink platform up and running and ready to use for pennant and state events. Though very humble in his acceptance speech, for those who know Peter and his work ethic, he was a very worthy winner, although he wanted to acknowledge that it’s always a team effort.

All the awards were received by outstanding individuals with their support teams behind them, all leaders in our sport in Victoria. After hearing from our two youngest award winners, the U18 male and female bowlers of the year Olivia Cartwright and Jarryd Davies, there’s a lot to look forward to and some exceptional talent coming through the ranks.

What a fantastic evening – we can’t wait for the next one!

VicSport Club of the Year: Moorabbin Bowling Club

Sport & Recreation Victoria Club of the Year: Dandenong Club

Taylor Bowls Volunteer of the Year: Peter Bowman

Club Coach of the Year: Brad Holland (South Bendigo Bowls Club)

Taylor Bowls Representative Coach of the year: Matt Flapper

Male State (Thunder) Player of the Year: John McCarron

Female State (Lightning) Player of the Year Kylie Whitehead

U18 Male Player of the Year: Jarryd Davies

U18 Female Player of the Year: Olivia Cartwright

JaeMan Active Bowler of the Year with a Disability: Josh Barry

Official of the Year: Neil Smillie

Media Story of the Year: Tyler Maher (Shepparton News: Olivia Cartwright)

Pancare Foundation Male Bowler of the Year: Jay Bye-Norris

Pancare Foundation Female Bowler of the Year: Anne Draffen