Adrienne Lambert: One for all and all for one-First Published 2019

August 9, 2021

Adrienne Lambert confesses that she once said ‘that’ll be the day!’ when asked if she might take up the game.

But unlike many other not-wanna-be bowlers who may have said the same thing, Adrienne at least had a good excuse – she was an avid golfer on an 11-handicap. Golf was her game.

Sometimes life just doesn’t do what it’s told. And when a good friend cajoled her in to coming along to the Matamata Women’s Bowling Club, life as Adrienne knew it was all over. “I fell in love with bowls,” recalls Adrienne.

Fortunately for bowler Adrienne (and unfortunately for golfer Adrienne), the lawn bowls stars had aligned in Matamata in 1978. Four of them in fact.

Star number one was Bowls legend Jack Somerville (1974 Commonwealth Games Fours Gold Medallist), who took Adrienne and her golfing friends under his wing at the club. In a series of six 1-hour Friday sessions, Jack showed them the ‘ABCs’ of bowls. It was enough to get Adrienne hooked.

Star number two was the Matamata Women’s Bowling Club itself – it was the then ‘powerhouse’ of women’s bowls in the country – boasting the likes of Millie Khan, Rhoda Ryan, Elsie Wilkie, Jenny Simpson, Thelma Kidd, Vi Fox, Betty Fitzell, Zelda Clements and more. In the 10 years from 1985, Matamata won the Women’s National Fours eight times.

Star number three was Millie Khan herself. Until Millie was selected for the Commonwealth Games, New Zealand representatives had had to be ‘mature’. There had been no room for young ‘flashes in the pan’. Millie broke the mould and opened the door for others like Adrienne.

And star number four was the befriending of Marlene Castle and Marie Watson – ‘the three musketeers’ who with their team mates became so successful in the women’s game nationally and internationally in the 1980s and 1990s.

This alignment lead to remarkable success for Adrienne.

“My first international outing was going to Fiji in 1989,” says Adrienne. “Marlene Castle and I were the rookies, but we must have done enough to catch the selectors’ eyes.”

Adriene found herself in the Commonwealth Games team in Auckland in 1990, and with Rhoda Ryan, Marlene Castle and Lynette McLean won a silver in the Fours.

In 1992, Adrienne was in the New Zealand women’s team that won silver in both the Triples and Fours at the World Outdoor Bowls Championships at Ayr in Scotland.

With Ann Muir, Marlene Castle and Colleen Ferrick, she won a bronze in the Fours at the Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada in 1994, before withdrawing herself from further selection because of family illness.

However, she returned as Manager of the New Zealand women’s team, a role she performed for 4 years until 2000.

Adrienne’s international credentials are backed up by amazing national, centre and club credentials.

Adrienne has 5 National titles : the 1998 Pairs with Rhoda Ryan; the 1981 Fours (with Ryan, Betty Schwass, Islay Garland); the 1989 Fours (with Ryan Zelda Clements and Millie Khan); the 1990 Fours (with Ryan, Clements and Khan); and the 1991 Fours (with Ryan, Clements and Mavis Buchanan).

She has 26 Centre titles. “I probably have 40+ Club titles as well … but I’ve never counted,” she adds.

Not bad results for an erstwhile golfer!!! But easier to understand when you appreciate her family background.

“I was brought up in a pretty sporty family,” says Adrienne. “Mum (Cecile Parker) represented Waikato in basketball, golf and tennis. Dad played in the Ranfurly Shield for Waikato.” Adrienne married ‘Gentleman Jim’, a judicial icon at race meetings around the Thames Valley, Waikato and Bay of Plenty.

Today at the age of 80, Adrienne has three children, six grandkids and four great-grandkids. “None of them seem to be big into sport though,” she laughs, “but time will tell.”

That’s alright. It just means that it’s up to Adrienne to carry the ‘Lambert’ flag at her current Tauranga South Bowling Club. “It’s a wonderful sport which has given me so much, and I would recommend it to anyone to give a go.”

“I’m just challenged by what we all find in old age,” bemoans Adrienne, “The mind’s as sharp as ever … it’s just the body wont do what it’s told anymore!”

Even if it only does half what Adrienne tells it to, it’s still going to be pretty handy coaching the newbies at the Bob Owens Retirement Village where she lives these days.

Thanks for everything Adrienne.

-Rob Davis