Orewa Bowling Club : The Big Get Bigger


- Graeme Kennedy
Club News

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New Zealand’s biggest bowling club Orewa is getting bigger - with soaring membership, a half million dollar-plus roof to protect players from the weather, and its move to become a multi-sport organisation.

President Tony Rickerby, who also heads Bowls North Harbour which will move its headquarters to Orewa from Browns Bay on 1st February 2018, says Orewa now has 270 playing members with another 40-60 Roll-Up players twice a week and a substantial turnout for its weekly Business House bowls. Around 60 petanque players joined the club six months ago and will begin playing there when a 15-piste terrain is installed for them later this year.

Orewa Bowling Club President Tony Rickerby

”The future for bowling clubs is to become multi-sport clubs,” he says. “Many other clubs are losing membership – they are not gaining new members while numbers are falling through natural attrition.”

Tony says Orewa’s total playing membership, currently aged between 30 and 93, is expected to top 500 in about five years - driven by petanque and the attraction of the $560,000, 1600 square metre domed roof (pictured) due to open in August 2018 over one of the club’s two artificial greens, recently re-surfaced at a cost of $130,000. The white plastic film roof will be largely financed by grants from various New Zealand trusts and will bring more bowling opportunities for everyone.

He says rain forced the cancellation of many tournaments in New Zealand. The roof would attract members who wanted a game at any time, regardless of the weather. Reps could also train for tournaments when it best-suited them, while overhead lighting would enable night play.

Tony was working for a giftware company in Palmerston North when he took up bowls 31 years ago at 38, two days after buying a set of golf clubs. A friend asked him why he had bought clubs rather than a set of bowls. And the next day took him to the local bowling club and taught him how to play. “I liked the game immediately,” he says. “The competitiveness of it was much more than a walk around a golf course.”

Just two months later, he and another friend entered the Nationals in Christchurch and performed well enough to be selected for the Manawatu juniors tournament. Tony was hooked on the game and never again touched his clubs.

Transferred to Auckland in 1992 as manager of the giftware firm, he joined Milford Bowling Club and served two years as president, before he took up real estate and discovered Orewa - where he moved with a view to retiring there.

“Orewa's beach and lifestyle meant it was a retirement town. But that's changed - with 10,000 houses being built in the area in the next five years for young families coming in to work locally or commuting to Auckland only about 30 minutes away. It has a lot going for it and everyone is involved in their community."

"Orewa has five retirement villages,” he says, "all with bowling greens. But most of their members play here for the more competitive games.”

”My vision for the Orewa Bowling Club is to be Club of the Year, best club in the North Harbour region and to become the top bowls centre in New Zealand.”