David Ball: General Manager, Auckland Bowls

July 9, 2021

General Manager of the Auckland Bowls Centre, David Ball, is relatively new in the job … he only came out of retirement in October 2020 to manage New Zealand’s largest lawn bowls centre.

“I had retired as Finance Manager with the Maintenance Division of Watercare in June 2018,” says David.  “And that was meant to be retirement fullstop … I was turning 64 that year (although looking like a 50 year old!).  But when the vacancy came up for the general managership of Auckland Bowls, I decided to put my hand up for the job.  I was already on the board of the Centre.”

David’s now attacking the job with the same gusto he attacked playing bowls when he became a player just 7 years ago.

“Me and a mate were on holiday and wandered into the Barefoot Bowls at the Marlin Coast Bowling Club at Trinity Beach in Cairns,” laughs David.  “And they liked us so much they invited us back the next day to play in their local tournament.”

“We spent a number of days playing bowls, but the holiday was over all too soon and we were back to Auckland.  I had been well and truly bitten by the bowling bug.  So, we decided to get serious and along with a couple of other mates, we all joined Mt Wellington Bowling Club.”

“I’d always been a keen sportsman … I’d played rugby and squash competitively … and was always the sort of person who wanted to play as well as I could.  Bowls was no different.  Me and my mates would be out on the bowling green in the dark, with just lanterns illuminating the green - trying to get the better of the game.  We provided a lot of amusement for the other club members!”

With so much practice, David became very handy with bowl in hand.

He claimed various club titles during his initial years at Mt Wellington and captured two Auckland Centre 1–5-year titles.

Last season he moved to the Carlton-Cornwall Bowling Club and has been runner-up in their Club Singles twice, as well as being in the winning Triples team this year.

David’s lawn bowls game has come a long way in a relatively short time.

With his passion for playing bowls, came a passion for administering bowls.  The strategic roles he had enjoyed in his working career at the likes of Watercare in Auckland, United Group Rail in Sydney, and New Guinea Industries in Lai meant that he could also make a great contribution to the game we all love.

“I was invited onto the board of Bowls Auckland in August 2020 and then the General Manager’s role became vacant.”

In the first few months, David’s already done the preliminaries … watched and listened to stakeholders, visited many clubs, inducted new staff at the Auckland Bowls office, and put an updated strategic plan in front of the board for approval.

He’s also had time to pop down to the Summerset National Fours and Mixed Pairs in Alexandra – he was in a four that made it to the quarter-finals, and in a pair that made it past section play.

Back in Auckland he’s already walking the talk.

“The Centres have a vital role to play in the bowls world,” he says. “Most clubs are run by volunteers, and if they are lucky enough to have members who between them have all the skills needed to run a club, that’s great.  But most don’t.  Auckland Bowls is there to help clubs figure out the best ways to fill any skill gaps … as well as enhance the skills they already have.”

The business’s strategic plan specifically address three major areas : developing young players; enhancing coaching resources with clubs; and nurturing high-performance bowls.

“We’re holding an inaugural Under 26 tournament in Auckland on the 28th/29th August,” he says. “It’s an any-combination Pairs tournament.  Entries close mid-August, and depending on how many we get, we’ll be using greens at Remuera, Epsom and Mt Eden.  It’ll be a real showcase of the skills and talent of our younger players.”

“Of course, that’s only one of many new initiatives we’ll be introducing to ensure bowls gets Aucklanders’ share-of-attention.”

“It’s pretty simple really ... it comes down to getting more people playing more bowls.  If we can do that, then I’ll be happy that we’ve succeeded.”