Doreen Jensen awarded life membership

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Doreen Jensen says there is still a ton of work to be done.

You can’t help thinking that there’s more lovely people involved with lawn bowls than any other sport.

Not that the people in other sports aren’t nice. They are. But it’s just that in lawn bowls, there’s an excessive amount of niceness and loveliness. It makes being a correspondent a breeze, because you’re continually meeting people who care more for others … than themselves or their cell phones.

Doreen Jensen is one such person. What a treat she is. And what a taonga she is in Maori Bowls. And all bowls for that matter.

Not surprisingly, Doreen was made a Life Member of Aotearoa Bowls last month.

Her credentials for such an accolade are impeccable (see below), but as many achieving Kiwis tend to be, she is a humble person from a humble background.

“I’m not a big city girl,” says Doreen, “I was born in Hamilton, and went to school in Morrinsville, Matamata and Turua, and continued my college years in Paeroa. We lived in Hamilton when we got married, then moved to Tokoroa, where we raised three children. We were there 28 years, and that’s where I got into bowls.”

But Doreen didn’t get into lawn bowls the normal way … by picking up a bowl and throwing down a wrong bias. “I was big into my 8-ball and snooker,” she says, “and got involved with setting up the Tokoroa Cossie Bowling Club. I was sieving and raking the soil for a new bowling green for the new club before I had ever played a bowl.”

That’s not surprising. She was pretty handy with the cue. VERY handy. Doreen represented New Zealand in Women’s 8-ball, 9-ball and snooker. She became New Zealand National Champion, and competed in the Trans-Tasman Snooker Series in Australia, the World Tri-Series in South Africa, and the World Pool Championships in England and the States from 1994 to 1999.

But even with all this energy going into cue sports, Doreen found time to take up bowls. “I remember thinking ‘I want to play that game’. I loved it! The late Millie Khan was my inspiration.”

“The day we opened the green at the Cossie Club,” she says. “All the blazers came from Hamilton, and we also welcomed the likes of Adrienne Lambert and Rhoda Ryan. I often wonder what they thought about this new club on the forestry frontier. The club bordered a lake, and we got lots of frogs and ducks on the green.”

“I left Tokoroa in 1999, to welcome the arrival of my first grandchild in Sydney, and help my daughter. I worked for Kresta Blinds and carried on playing bowls at the Guildford Bowling Club in Merrylands in Sydney’s inner west.”

“Two years later, the boss of Kresta asked me to go back to Auckland and help in their Carbine Road, Mt Wellington branch. It was all going well, until one day after a staff lunch, I had a stroke. It was a real showstopper. In fact, I ended up having two strokes.”

It was a long comeback for Doreen.

But a bloke called Sam Pirini, a fellow bowler and past Aotearoa Bowls Councillor, was determined to put a dart back in her fingers, a cue back in her grip, and a lawn bowl back in her palm. He did a great job, as did the others around her. Doreen today shows no signs of being a stroke victim, other than the missing cigarette between her fingers.

Doreen joined the Otahuhu Railway Bowling Club and took to bowls with new gusto.

Now separated, she hooked up with Ian McInnes, President of the Onehunga RSA Bowling Club, and moved to that club. She realised her dream to establish and register Onehunga RSA Women in the Auckland Centre.

Today, Doreen is still playing at the newly renamed Onehunga & Districts Bowling Club, but unfortunately Ian has since passed away.

Doreen corrects herself. “I will be playing. I’ve just had 31 gallstones taken out, so just getting back on my feet. I had to miss the Aotearoa National Bowls Tournament for the first time in 33 years!”

It’s a tournament which she’s very passionate about. And she’s keen to get rangatahi more interested in entering this unique and prestigious event.

Doreen is also authoring a new book ’50 years of Maori Bowls in New Zealand’. “I’ve also put my hand up to organise an Indigenous Bowls Tournament in Tamaki Makaurau (Auckland) in the near future.”

Despite all this, she’s still got time for full-time work at New Zealand Post’s facilities at Highbrook in Auckland. “I’m still a youngster (62),” she teases, “and there’s still tons to do.”

Thanks for everything Doreen . . . you’re a true champion.


As a club member
1983-1987: Tokoroa Cosmopolitan Bowling Club, Tokoroa
1987-1998: Tokoroa East Bowling Club, Tokoroa
1999-2001: Guildford Bowling Club, Sydney
2003-2006: Otahuhu Railway Bowling Club, Auckland
2006-present: Onehunga & Districts Bowling Club, Auckland

As a player
1987: First played in Aotearoa National Bowls Tournament in Whakatane with Pat Brady, Bev Haare and Ali Neale

1997: Gold Medallist, Pairs (with Sarah Matangi), Samoan Games, Apia
1997: Bronze Medallist, Fours (with Sarah Matangi, Awhi Ansley, Millie Cooper), Samoan Games, Apia

1999 Arafura Games, Darwin, Australia
2001 Arafura Games, Darwin, Australia
2011 Winner (with Sue Crackett, Bev Haare, Delphina McCaskill), Aotearoa National Bowls Tournament, Wainuiomata

2015 Winner (with Karen Hema, Chrissy Peers, Lavinia Ruka), Aotearoa National Bowls Tournament, Tairawhiti

2014–2016 Winner (with Tamaki Makaurau team) Annual Rohe Challenge, Frankton Railway Bowling Club

2018: Winner (with Tamaki Makaurau team) Annual Rohe Challenge, Frankton Railway Bowling Club

As a selector
2018-present: Co-selector, Maori Sports Awards for Rangatahi /Tamariki in Bowls
2018-present: Women’s National Selector, Aotearoa Bowls Board

As an administrator
1991-1994: Secretary, Tokoroa Maori Bowls Committee
1992-1999: Member, Waikato Maori Bowls Committee
1995-present: Executive assistant, Aotearoa Bowls Committee
2006-present: Rohe Delegate, Tamaki Makaurau
2012-present: Secretary, Tamaki Makaurau
2017: Organising Committee, Aotearoa National Bowls Tournament, Tamaki Makaurau

2018-2019: Organising Committee, Tamariki Bowls Day, Tamaki Makaurau
2018: Administrator of the Year, Maori Sports Awards – Maui Tikitiki A Taranga
2019: Life Member, Aotearoa Bowls Board Inc

by Rob Davis