Travel northeast out of Wellington past Ngauranga Gorge and you’ll soon hit the Hutt Valley.
It’s a long flat valley sandwiched between the Haywards to the northwest, and the Wainuiomata Hills to the southeast … it’s where the faultline emerges out of Wellington Harbour from the South Island … it’s where an alternative site for Wellington’s airport was mooted way-back-when by those frustrated with Rongotai …. and it’s where you’ll find the community of Stokes Valley nestled about the tributary of the Hutt River that bears its name.
It’s also where you’ll find the Stokes Valley Bowling Club, a seemingly unremarkable bowling club in an unremarkable suburban street surrounded by … well … a lot of unremarkability.
But nothing could be further from the truth. The 55-year-old Stokes Valley Bowling Club is punching well above its weight – and achieving remarkable things in the bowling world.
Club President, Jason Puddick, isn’t short of an enthusiastic word or two about Stokes Valley. And why not. He’s a bloke whose career is based on the gift of the gab: formerly a Sales Manager for Tegel Chicken and now National Sales Manager for Ngati Porou Seafood Group. He doesn’t want to lead a club that’s neither fish nor fowl.
“I’ve got a great executive,” says Puddick, “and they’re not only keen to try new things, but back up the talk with action. We can actually do the things we talk about, because the club has members who are always putting up their hand to help. It’s not just left to one or two.”
“Five things in particular come to mind.”
“Firstly, we’re a club that attracts juniors. In fact, Stokes Valley currently has
31 … they’re about half of our full membership.” And some big junior names stick out on the club honours boards: Blake Signal and Lisa White just to name a couple. “There’s no doubt that Stokes Valley has become renowned as a competitive junior nursery,” adds Puddick, “and when you add in the likes of Euan Wong (currently overseas), Seamus Curtin, James-Cameron Powell and Finbar McGuigan the club is in good health.”
“Secondly, our ‘Mates in Bowls’ just keeps on keeping on. Every Thursday, both greens are full. That’s 32 teams playing. What’s more there’s a waiting list!” But Puddick isn’t just putting on a roll-up and a BBQ sausage – he and his team are out there every Thursday making sure everyone’s having a great time: the music’s playing (Yes … you heard it … music!), and the bar’s keeping the cheer coming. “That’s what’s so great about Stokes Valley …everyone who comes knows everyone else. It’s a wonderful tight community.”
Thirdly, they’re proud of their club. There was no equivocation when it came to handing over 6 grand to have a team in the televised Bowls3Five tournament in Auckland last year. “There was no way we weren’t going to have a team in it,” laughs Puddick. “The red, yellow and black colours of the Stokes Valley Vipers have become as well known around these parts as the All Blacks …. well, nearly!”
Fourthly, Stokes Valley seem to know how to run a great tournament. Their annual ‘Tradie’s Day’ for example, attracts a full house of 32 teams on the 2 greens. “The prizes are unreal,” says Puddick. “Guys (and gals) walk away with power tools just for coming 6th … the winner gets a grand!” That’s all credit to Puddick and his team … they look after the sponsors so well they just keep coming back.
And finally, Stokes Valley reeeaaalllllly supports its players. Ask any Wellington bowler, and they’ll tell you they’re always tripping over Stokes Valley supporters at tournaments, rah-rahing their players on to greatness. “That was no more evident than at the first year singles last year when more than 20 club members turned out to watch our newest bowlers in action.” says Puddick.
Greenkeeper Geoff Adams is equally effusive about the club. And he’s proud of the fact that preliminary rounds of the Summerset National Fours were recently played at Stokes Valley on the newish maniototo green. “It’s a great green,” says Adams, “and hopefully we’ll be able to sort out the no.2 artificial green as well … sooner rather than later.”
That remark probably says it all about Stokes Valley. They’re not a self-satisfied lot … there’s always things to be done … and things to be done better. That’s what make a club great.