There are now more and more disabled bowlers playing in New Zealand.

Not that more and more bowlers in New Zealand have suddenly become disabled … more that clubs are now openly welcoming and facilitating disabled bowlers and disabled people who wish to play bowls. 

On top of that, competition in disabled bowls in the last few years has now become mainstream: not only at the Commonwealth Games, but at the national level where disabled bowls is included as part of the able-bodied nationals.

Progress has also been made towards recognising and integrating five categories of disability … so that individual disabilities are not left to fend for themselves.  Those categories include physical disabilities; disability caused by visual impairment; disability caused by deafness; ‘special’ disability; and even disability due to mental health.

The game of bowls in New Zealand is actively enabling all disabled persons to equitably compete in the sport.

It is no surprise then that disability is also recognised in the National Awards.  And this year’s Disabled Bowler has been won by Darron Wolland.

If you haven’t heard of him, that’s no surprise, “He’s literally just burst onto the scene,” says Parajacks Coach, Kevin Smith. “Although he’s been playing bowls for around 16 or 17 years, he only came to the national fore last year when he won the Singles in the New Zealand Disabled Lawn Bowls Association Championships in Invercargill.  He then went on to win the Singles in the open disability section of the National in Auckland in January this year.”

“That’s lead to his inclusion in the Blackjacks team in the World Championships being held on the Gold Coast at the end of August, where he paired with the experienced Mark Noble.  On another day when the bowling gods were smiling on New Zealand, they could’ve easily been amongst the medals.”

Darron performed really well at his maiden world championships.

After all, the Gold Coast is a long way from Milton, Otago where the 52 year old was brought up, and in Dunedin where he now plays at the Brighton Bowling Club.  “I think he’s also been a member at Milton and Wakari,” says Kevin.  “All in the deep south anyway.  He hasn’t let his spondylitis (a sort of degenerative arthritis fusing the spine) get in the way of his bowls … in fact he plays a lot of able-bodied competition, and is very competitive.”

“He works hard at his game and trains hard.  He’s a very good player.”

Having said that, Darron’s probably not your stereotypical gentile bowler.  But he is a stereotypical ‘Southern Man’.  He’s a stay-at-home dad still looking after the youngest of his kids, yet he’s been a former tough man in rugby league.

That background gave him great preparation for the World Champs.

“He’ll have learnt a lot from this,” says Kevin.  “And when he’s selected again, he’ll be better equipped to get amongst the medals.”

We’ll look forward to it.

Meantime, congratulations on winning Disabled Bowler of the Year, Darron.