Vale Robert (Bob) Middleton OAM

by Team BV

The Board and Staff of Bowls Victoria are incredibly saddened to advise the bowls community of the passing of Robert (Bob) Middleton OAM, on Sunday 21st May 2023.

Bob was known as bowling royalty, not only here in Victoria but all around the country and was both a Bowls Victoria and Bowls Australia Hall of Fame inductee. Past and current State representatives have remembered Bob as a wonderful mentor and junior coach and loved being coached by such a legend in their junior days.

Bob’s history and contribution to bowls is remarkable and varied, both as a highly decorated player, and administrator. His accolades include:

  • 339 games for Victoria
  • 59 games for Australia
  • Hall of Fame (BV and BA)
  • World Singles Runner-up
  • 4 x Victorian Champion of Champions
  • 2 x State Singles titles
  • 2 x State Fours titles
  • State Pairs title
  • And countless other achievements

Not only did Bob contribute to the sport in a playing sense, he also held a host of volunteer roles over many years, including:

  • RVBA Board Member
  • RVBA Councillor
  • RVBA Delegate
  • Group 12 Chairman
  • RVBA Match Committee Chairman
  • State Selector
  • National Coaching Director

Born in Ballarat, Victoria on 21 August 1935, Bob’s family moved to Melbourne in 1941 during World War Two, to manage a Guest House in Queens Road.

Educated at Christ Church Grammar School in the Primary years and then South Melbourne Technical College, Bob achieved his junior technical certificate to then continue on a five-year apprenticeship course, achieving his final certificate in Carpentry and Joinery.

Bob married his sweetheart June in 1958 and had two children Peter and Jenny and six grandchildren. Bob and June were married for over 50 years.

Bob commenced his career in his chosen trade, working for seven years with builder Hansen and Yuncken, before deciding to join his brother-in-law in a partnership of a fruit and vegetable business, managing and running two shops in Willsmere Road, Kew. The brothers successfully ran the business for seventeen years before selling due to extreme pressure from the Safeway and New World Supermarkets that were close by.

Bob’s career then moved in the direction of wholesale warehousing and sales, in the Manchester and industrial clothing wear industry. This change led to an appointment as the sole representative for all of Metropolitan Victoria, selling to Myer, Forges of Richmond and Footscray, along with many other prominent retailers. Eventually Bob was made responsible for the whole of Victoria in his sales role, until employed by the Royal Victorian Bowls Association in 1989.

In 1989 Bob was appointed as the RVBA Development Officer, employed to carry out coaching and promotion sessions throughout the State, coaching 13,497 bowlers from 311 clubs until his retirement in 2003.

In his many varied bowls roles, Bob was appointed as a Bowls Liaison Officer with Trans Australian Airlines until Qantas took over, and during that time he escorted six trips overseas, five on the Oriana with P & O Lines and one with the National Bank to Hawaii and Fiji. He also visited Canada, travelling to Vancouver, Calgary, Quebec, Ontario, Nova Scotia, Edmonton and Victoria in British Columbia carrying out coaching and promotional duties. That particular trip involved presenting twenty-one lectures and demonstrations in nineteen days!

Invited to Malaysia by the Malaysian Government and the newly formed Malaysian Bowls Association, Bob assisted them in establishing bowling facilities in seven provinces throughout Malaysia. This included setting up the administration and coaching procedures along, with coaching the initial squad over five visits made to Kuala Lumpur.

When the TAC (Traffic Accident Commission) became a major sponsor of the RVBA, Bob was appointed as the Bowls Liaison Officer, carrying out safety awareness sessions for bowlers in many clubs over several years during their sponsorship of the Association.

Bob served two terms as a RVBA Councillor, the first with group 16 for three years while a member of the City of Prahran Bowling Club. Following the death of his parents he transferred to Mitcham in 1980 and became a Councillor for group 12 in 2002, serving seven years, during that time four years on the Board of Management.

One of Bob’s personal achievements was the privilege of being invited to join The Sovereign Order of St John of Jerusalem, which originated in Malta in 1068 and included members such as Sir Weary Dunlop, Sir Hubert Opperman, Professor Graham Burrows and many other high profile members. This organisation is a Knights Hospitaller Order, which raises money for under-financed charities such as the Sir Weary Dunlop Medical Research Foundation, Berry Street Babies Home, Open House (a drug rehabilitation centre in Ivanhoe), Australian Working, and VACRO are just a few that have been donated to.

During Bob’s involvement over $500,000 had been donated to various charities throughout Melbourne and Geelong. Bob held the position of Vice Chancellor/Secretary for many years, achieving the position of Knight Commander of The Order of St John and arranging many of the fundraising functions, as well as organising and interviewing prospective new Investees.

Bob Middleton OAM was inducted into the Bowls Australia Hall of Fame on December 7th, 2012.

Bob was humbled and honoured to receive the Order of Australia Medal in January 1999. He was inducted into the RVBA Hall of Fame August 1999, and is also a Life Member, a Bowls Australia Hall of Fame member, and received the Australian Sports Medal in the year 2000. He has a Green named in his honour, the R.J. Middleton Green at the Mitcham Bowling Club.

Bob was truly loved and admired by so many in the bowls community, and our thoughts are with Bob’s friends and family at this time.

Funeral arrangements:
1:00pm, Wednesday, 31 May 2023
Heritage and Heritage Funerals
733 Boronia Road, Wantirna VIC 3152

Refreshments to follow at Mitcham Bowling Club
306 Mitcham Road, Mitcham VIC 3132