Drive east to Gisborne from Opotiki, and the road seems to go on forever through the Waioeka Gorge. It’s not until you reach the small settlement of Te Karaka, that you know you’re almost there.
It’s a settlement that even with just a population of 500 or so, headquartered the Waihoku County Council up until the local body upheaval of 1989. It still boasts a bowling club. And President of the Te Karaka Bowling Club is one David File.
If that name rings a bell, it should.
As a young twenty-something, File became part of the New Zealand international lawn bowls scene. In 1995, he played at the Pacific Games in Dunedin and picked up a gold in both the Fours (with Andrew Curtain, Peter Belliss and Gary Lawson) and Triples (with Andrew Curtain and Peter Belliss). At the World Outdoor Championships in Adelaide in 1996, the same four picked up a bronze and the same three picked up a silver. That year, File and Curtain were runners-up in the Pairs of the Hong Kong international Bowls Classic.
1996 also saw File playing for New Zealand in a Singles and Pairs three-test series against South Africa in Cape Town, Durban and Johannesburg. Despite File’s personal performance – winning 5 out of 6 games – the 6-man team of Rowan Brassey, Gary Lawson, Andrew Curtain, Stewart Buttar, Brian Baldwin and File lost the series.
But that’s not all the name ‘David File’ should ring a bell about. There’s a heck of a lot of bells that might ring at national, centre and club level.
In 1994, File won the National Champion of Champions. He won 5 Pathways titles. But the National Singles, Pairs and Fours always eluded him.
At centre level File has consistently performed over the years. And recently, at the Gisborne East Coast Centre Championships at Tolaga Bay, File and his Te Karaka team of John Dawson, Lofty Hurrell and Duncan McPherson picked up the Fours title. It was File’s 80th centre title.
By our reckoning that’s more Centre titles than any other bowler currently playing in New Zealand. And despite the modest size of the Gisborne East Coast Centre it is a remarkable achievement.
“I haven’t counted the number of Club titles I’ve won over the years,” adds File, “but it could be somewhere near 100 if you count both Te Karaka and Kahutia where I started in 1980/81at the age of 14.”
Funnily enough, it is the achievement which File is most proud of which probably wont ring any bells with all but those ‘in the know’ in Gisborne.
“I’ve been a professional painter all my life,” explains File, “and we used to have a couple of young guys called Shannon McIlroy and Dwayne Cameron in our painting gang. When we weren’t painting, we were skiving off to the bowling green. I like to think that maybe I helped them achieve some success.”
And conversely, it is a moment which File is most ‘unproud’ of which may still ring bells with many. “Years ago, I did something really stupid in the frustration of the moment,” confesses File regretfully, “and copped a 10-year sanction which thankfully was later reduced to a $500 fine. No excuses. It was just dumb.”
File is grateful to have a second chance, because he still loves his bowls and plans to be around the bowls scene for a long time yet (he is only 52).
“I’ve been very fortunate,” he observes. “Bowls opened my eyes to fabulous places around the world. I’ve loved mentoring others in the game. And I’ve loved the fellowship in the bowls community.”
And after 38 years, bowls still remains first equal with his other two sporting loves : hunting and fishing.
“I haven’t been able to take the family along for the ride though,” laughs File. “Neither my daughter, my partner Jenny, Jenny’s three kids, or the five grandkids play bowls. Can’t win ‘em all, I guess!”