Celebrating Two Remarkable 1,000 Game Milestones
Milestones come and go, and they get celebrated accordingly but very rarely does a player get recognized for 1,000 games. For Norm Thomas of Ocean Grove Bowling Club, that milestone was achieved in round one of the 2023/24 bowls season. This is a remarkable achievement for any player, but even more remarkable that it was achieved playing for just one club. Norm joined Ocean Grove in 1971 as a 32 year old, and has been playing for 52 years.
“A group pf mates used to play cricket across the road on a vacant block and we would sometimes hit the ball across the road onto the bowling greens. The bowlers would simply throw it back without any complaints and we all thought they seemed like a good bunch of blokes,” Norm reflected.
Now 85, Norm has amassed 942 games as a Saturday Pennant player, and only a few years ago made the decision to play Midweek Pennant on a Tuesday, clocking up 58 games to reach the 1,000 game milestone. In the 52 years playing he has not missed any seasons.
Premierships are hard to come by in any sport but for Norm it’s more than that. “I have been involved in four premierships with the club, the last one was Division 2 in 2015-16 but the game is far more than just premierships, it’s about the people you play alongside each week and the friends you make along the journey,” he added.
A celebration was held to mark the event with all Ocean Grove players as well as visitors from Bell Post Hill, Eastern Park, Belmont and Lara all taking part in a guard of honor to mark Norm’s 1000th as he entered the venue.
After the opening match of the Geelong Bowls Region Saturday pennant competition, in which Norm was a part of a 31-11 rink win, he was presented with a framed picture recognising his amazing journey as an Ocean Grove pennant player. He was saluted with a standing ovation.
Shortly after Norm was recognized for his achievement, another Geelong Region bowler realised he also may have reached the 1,000 pennant game milestone. At 84 years of age, Kevin Steen, with help from officials at his home club, Drysdale Bowling Club, determined that he too must have played 1,000 games.
“Playing an average of roughly 18 game per year on average, plus finals, for 57 years it’s been quite a journey to get to the 1,000-game mark, but Drysdale is a great club to be a part of, and I’ve certainly enjoyed it after all these years,” Kevin said. “I knew I had played quite a few games, and I’ve met some fantastic people over the years and played against some top bowlers. I feel like I’ve got a few good years left in me.”
Kevin was introduced to the sport by neighbor and long-time friend Lex Mortimer. He has gone on to claim eight Club Championships over the years, as well as twice coming Runners-Up in the Region’s Champion of Champions. He and his mate Lex (now deceased) are both tied in second place with the most Club Championships at Drysdale, with each being one championship short of the club record of nine, held by Mortimer’s father in-law Ernie Rogers.