Jenny Jones isn’t one of those roll-over-and-die sort of people. In fact as Club Manager at Point Chevalier Bowling Club, she’s probably got up a few noses in her time, making sure that the Club, now in its 91st year, is going to be around for its 100th birthday.
You would have to bet on her. Jenny’s been Club Manager of Point Chevalier for 20 years, taking it from a Club in major financial strife to one that today boasts 356 members. “The grumbles from the old fellas sitting at the leaner nursing a 5 ounce beer have got less and less over the years,” says Jenny with a twinkle in her eye. “They now know that the future isn’t old blokes coming for a roll-up every weekend while mum stays at home cooking the dinner.”
And what Jenny at the Point Chevalier Bowling Club Committee have managed to implement at the Club is nothing short of impressive.
The Club has developed a large social membership, where Point Chevalier locals can come by and have a game of bowls, have a drink, and get a meal. “We’ve put on 100 new members in the last 18 months,” says Jenny proudly. “It’s pretty simple really – if you’re going to play bowls seriously and become a full member, then you need to try it socially first. Try-before-you-buy! I can’t understand why other Clubs just see ‘social membership’ as a retirement option for their members who have become too old and given up the game.”
The club’s Wednesday evening social league is the backbone of that strategy. “We run two social leagues every year,” explains Jenny. “For 6 weeks in October-November and in February-March. It costs $10 per person per game, and we have 18 teams playing every Wednesday from 6:00pm to 7:15pm with a BBQ included afterwards. We’re chocka. There’s even a waiting list.”
“Have-a-go Day also works for us,” adds Jenny. “Last October, we only had 5 people along because it was hosing down with rain. But 4 of those became members. The year before, when the weather was great, we had a queue on Have-a-go Day waiting to get a go on the green.”
All this doesn’t happen by itself. “Leading up to Have-a-go Day we deliver 2,500 leaflets around Point Chevalier,” says Jenny. “It’s one thing to talk about the day, but you need to get out and grab people.”
When the Club decided it would be great to have a kid’s playground so that their younger family members could enjoy a beer and a roll-up, Jenny and her team went to work. “We put on a Black Tie dinner at the Club for $180 a couple. 110 people came along and we made $17,000 – enough to build the playground.”
“Next year, we’re aiming to build a beer garden,” Jenny continues. “So that members can have a beer, watch the bowls and watch their kids in the playground.”
Unlike many other clubs, Point Chevalier has no commercial sponsorship. “We rely on fundraising events,” says Jenny. “Like our Melbourne Cup Day or the Bathurst Race Day we used to have. The bigwigs from the Centre and the National offices used to come in and try to tell us what to do. But we know how to get people in to bowls – we’ve been doing it for years.”
Like all sports clubs around New Zealand, the Point Chevalier Club could always do with more help. “There’s tons of things we’d like to do,” says Jenny. “We just need more of the people who do the doing, rather than people who just do the talking.”