When Bryce Wyatt tells his wife he is heading down to the local bowling club, there is always a familiar retort. “She always says ‘You may as well take your bed down there’”, laughs Wyatt.
It is a tough in cheek comment, but reflects the staggering commitment of her husband to the Mamaranui club in the Far North.
Wyatt has been Vice President since 2006 and currently serves as greenkeeper, main fundraiser, chief of maintenance and project manager, as well as being a ‘one man’ match committee.
His effort and endeavour over the last 15 years were a major reason why Mamaranui was judged Northland’s best club in 2020.
Now Wyatt’s outstanding personal contribution has been regarded on a national scale, with Wyatt named the 2021 Summerset Bowls New Zealand Bowling Club Person of the Year.
“I was a bit taken aback when I was told,” said Wyatt. “I was a bit embarrassed when I was nominated in the first place, but very proud now, especially for the club. This club is so important for the community. I do a lot round the place but I have a bit more time. But there is an awful lot of helpers around the club.”
Wyatt’s ties in the local area go back seven decades. He still runs the same farm purchased by his father in 1951, with dairy and beef stock spread across 1000 acres, though son Allan is the main operator now.
Wyatt first joined the club in 1990 – winning the first-year singles tournament – and got more involved in the administration side towards the end of that decade. Mamaranui almost closed down 13 years ago, after the passing of greenkeeper, administrator and long-time club stalwart Kevin Pivac, who left a massive void.
“The green had deteriorated markedly that winter,” said Wyatt. “It was unplayable. When you walked on it you sunk in shoe depth. People told us we would never play on it again.”
Wyatt has worked tirelessly over the years, learning as much as he could, and despite the ongoing challeng- es of maintaining a lawn green, has steadily improved each year.
‘”We’ve got it pretty perfect,” said Wyatt, who waters the green by hand with a 32mm hose.
The green keeping – which is done on a strictly voluntary basis – would be enough for most people, but that is only the start for the energetic 72-year-old.
Mamaranui life member and patron Dot Gorrie describes Wyatt as a “one man” match committee, compiling and co-ordinating entries from the club to other venues and orchestrating the tournaments they host over the summer. He’s also in charge of all the maintenance jobs associated with running the club, from leaking taps to replacement locks, pest control to minor repairs.
Wyatt has helped to ensure the ongoing financial health of the club with an innovative investment scheme. When the neighbouring Te Kopuru Bowling Club was wound up a few years, Wyatt came up with the idea of investing the money Mamaranui received in beef calves, that are then farmed by locals and members.
“People are happy to help,” says Wyatt of the scheme, which has become their biggest fundraiser, earning thousands on an annual basis.
Wyatt, along with president Jamie Nysen, has overseen a myriad of work over the last 12 months. Working bees were organised to repaint the clubrooms, revamp the gardens (with new walls) and improve the outdoor seating. When the club needed a replacement roller for the green Wyatt sourced a second hand option at a fraction of the cost. He has continued to procure sponsorship for the club and led the initiative for new LED lights, which will facilitate twilight matches. Wyatt has also headed a project to replace the dishwashers for the kitchen and bar.
When you ask Wyatt about what drives him to do so much, the answer is simple.
“It’s the community,” says Wyatt, who explains that the forestry projects in the area over the last 30 years have seen many people depart, as farms are bought up.
“With forestry the district really changes and it puts a squeeze on communities,” said Wyatt. “It’s been hard for our club, but we are going well. The club needs the community and the community needs the club.”
Wyatt gives the example of the Friday night meals hosted by Mamaranui, where up to 50 people get together, even more when Nysen runs his popular quizzes.
“It’s great for everyone to get together,” says Wyatt.
The final word goes to Gorrie, who says that Wyatt has made “a truly outstanding contribution to his local club and has been a vigorous promoter of the game locally and within the Northland region”.