If you could bet on lawn bowls in New Zealand, laying a sneaky $10 on Jack Bonner to pick up a medal in the 2030 Commonwealth Games mightn’t be a bad wildcard bet.
At the age of 16, Jack is already making an impact at the Barrington United Bowling Club in the south eastern suburbs of Christchurch, and eager to take his game much further. He’s already been playing for 4+ years.
“We got a flyer through the mailbox in mid-2017,” says Jack. “And dad and I decided to walk down to the club for a look. A guy called ‘Pottze’ grabbed us at the club, and showed us what to do, and we both really enjoyed it.”
“It was the off-season, and initially we planned only to be social members. But when the new season started we both became very keen on the game … and became members.”
Both Jack and his dad, Galen, have become bowlers to watch at the club. Along with fellow club member Les Hoare and Owen Giddens, they won the Club Fours last season, and went on to win the Centre Champion of Champion Fours.
“Dad and I played in the National Pairs in Christchurch this year, and were really happy to qualify. We’ve also done quite well playing together in the Junior Centre tournaments.”
Jack has also won the Canterbury Secondary School Champs two years running. He’s a Year 12 (6th form) student at Cashmere High School, but admits that bowls isn’t a highly popular sport at the school. “As you’d expect, the other kids say ‘Why do you play that sport for? It’s for old people’.”
That doesn’t deter Jack.
He has ambitions to do well in bowls. Really, really well. And has set his sights on playing at the highest level : the Commonwealth Games.
“Dad and I are already training with Lance Main,” says Jack. “And we’ll probably play out of both Barrington and Redcliffs next season so we can get the benefit of his coaching. I’m a slow starter, and
can drop ends at the beginning of the game. But I try not to get phased, and can usually come back towards the end.”
But the year after next is an unknown.
“At this stage, I’m aiming to go to Otago, to get a BSc. I’d like to be a Forensic Scientist.”
That may mean that some lucky club in Dunedin gets to enjoy Jack amongst its members. It will be the first time he’s lived anywhere other than Christchurch.
“I went and stayed with my grandparents in Wellington for a month just after the earthquake,” he recalls. “I was pretty young, and mum and dad wanted me out of the way while they sorted the damage to the house and section. We were quite badly affected ... but so were a lot of other people.”
Their home in Barrington is now back in tip top shape, and Jack and his father are free to play as much bowls as they like.
Well, not actually. Galen is still working full time as an Aircraft Engineer at Christchurch Airport. And Jack is still restricted to plating after school or in the weekends.
But both Bonners cant get enough of the game. And there’s a friendly rivalry between the generations as to who has become the best bowler since that fateful day in mid-2017 when a stroll down the road to an unknown club turned into a great love of the gentle game.
Keep it up guys!