Diane and Dusty : a couple of Northlanders mixing it with the Southlanders

March 26, 2021

There’s not many bowlers, if any, that travelled further than Diane Strawbridge and Dusty Reader to the Summerset National Mixed Pairs in Central Otago this year.  Both made the trip from Whangarei : Diane from the Kensington Bowling Club and Dusty from the Whangarei Bowling Club.

On the Tuesday afternoon, Diane and Dusty reached the last 32, only to be knocked out 21-13 by eventual semi-finalists Craig Merrilees and Clare Hendra.

It was a result that was worth coming a long way for.  But they had even done better in the Fours.

Diane skipped a Kensington Bowling Club team that reached the last 16.   And Dusty’s Whangarei Bowling Club team went even further … to the semi-finals, only to be beaten by Mike Kernaghan.on an extra end.

Northlanders wont be surprised that they did so well.  Both Diane and Dusty are ‘very-watched’ bowlers north of Auckland.

With Carol Neeley, Diane won Gold in the Women’s Pairs (60-69) in the 2017 Women’s Masters Games in Auckland.  She also won Bronze in the Mixed Pairs with Bill Harris.

She can also include winning the Australian Open Women’s Fours in 2018 on her bowls CV.  That’s on top of her many club and centre titles.

“The Kensington Bowling Club is a great club for women to bowl,” she says.  “There’s about 120 full-playing members, half of which are women.  There’s plenty of competition.”

Dusty’s also a bowler with an eye for the jack.

“We’ve only got 40 or so members at the Whangarei Bowling Club,” he says. “But it provides tough competition for men.”

So tough in fact that Dusty reached the last 4 in the National Singles a few years ago.  And won the National Champ of Champ Fours with the same team in 2019.

Additionally, he’s got 17 centre titles, and ‘lots’ of club titles.  But not just playing titles – Dusty’s currently the President of Bowls Northland – a job he’s been in for the last 5 years.

However, despite their bowling prowess, Northland locals will be just as familiar with their faces off the bowling green as well.

More than likely they’ve seen Diane performing in the Basin City Big Band.

“I decided 6 weeks before my 50th birthday to learn to play the saxophone,” laughs Diane.  “It was a way of giving the assembled celebrants something to remember on the day!”

From starting as a bit of birthday fun, the sax joined her bowling bag as a regular accessory in Diane’s life.

“I joined the Basin City Big Band.  There’s 26 of us in the band.  We don’t just play ‘big band’ music, but swing, jazz, latin … even pop and rock … all around the Whangarei district.”

“I also joined the army band.  As part of the entrance test, they asked me to walk like a duck for 20 metres.  At my age, there was no show.  ‘How can I play the sax walking like a duck?’ I told them (I just hoped they didn’t send me to East Timor!)”

Whangareites may have also seen Diane at the shopping mall.

“I taught a group of 5 year olds to play brass instruments,” she says. “You’ll catch us playing at the mall from time to time … the shoppers love it.”

Dusty also has a lot of off-the-green visibility.

He’s still working as an Account Manager for Carter Holt which gets him out and about the Northland region.

Dusty (his actual name is Trevor – he has no idea where ‘Dusty’ came from!) is well-known in Northland rugby circles.

“I played the game until injuries made me give it up.  I then went on to referee for 15 or so years.. until I found it too hard to keep up around the paddock.”

“I also had a stint coaching the Waipu Senior Rugby team … we managed to get promoted to the next division.”

These days it’s fishing and e-biking which competes with bowls for Dusty’s leisure time outside work.  “I turned 60 last year,” he says, “And we were meant to go on a big trip to Europe.  But COVID put a stop to that.”

Hopefully, we wont see it putting a stop to the bowls again … and we’ll see more of Diane and Dusty around the greens.