Jan Tucker: Representing bowls’ “grassroots”


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Here she is in 2014. Jan Tucker, former chairwoman of the Caledonian Bowling Club, in action defending the club against the council’s proposal to sell. Photo: Otago Daily Times

Newly elected Bowls New Zealand Vice-President, Jan Tucker, recently did what not many other bowlers opted to do earlier this month … standing for her local community board for West Harbour, Dunedin in the local body elections.

But it was certainly a lot easier than the last four times she’s stood.

“This time, the number of candidates equals the number of seats available,” Jan wryly observes. “So the election was uncontested. Frankly, it’s a bit of a relief. It’s tough contesting elections!”

Jan also found it tough when she pitted herself against fellow bowls vice-presidential candidate, Mary Orbell, at the recent Bowls New Zealand Annual General Meeting at the Carlton Cornwall Bowling Club in Auckland last month.

“You cant take anything for granted,” she observes, “and in the end I was simply the lucky one who won the election on the day.”

Notwithstanding her modesty, Jan has great credentials for the job of Vice-President.

She started playing bowls way back in the pre-amalgamation days, when she was working full-time, yet found that as a woman she couldn’t play bowls in the weekends. “It was very frustrating,” she says, “It was assumed that we were all stay-at-home women who could avail themselves of the greens during the week. But I was a full-time high school physed teacher.”

As a result, Jan became involved in a women’s bowls organisation in Dunedin called ‘Business Women’. “There were 30-35 of us, and we played at the dedicated women’s greens at Logan Park.

“But after amalgamation in 1996, the council no longer saw the need for separate women’s greens, and they were ‘retired’ in favour of more university carparking. So we continued playing at the Caledonian Bowling Club.”

Unfortunately, a few years later, the council sold the Caledonian off for development as well. So Jan now plays 3 days a week out of the Balmacewan Bowling Club at Maori Hill – she doesn’t have time to play more.

On top of the community board work (and now the bowls vice-presidential work), she’s President of Keep Dunedin Beautiful; a member of the Rotary Club; and a volunteer cruise ship guide. She’s been widowed from her electrician/bowler husband Kevin for 17 years, and her only child is a mini-poodle ‘Ollie Dog’.

But even Ollie cant stop her giving as much as she can to bowls.

“I think I’ve done just about every job there is at club and centre level. Somehow I’ve even ended up as Dunedin Centre President three times.”

The Centre’s even elected her a Life Member so she cant escape them! “I certainly didn’t get that for my bowls playing prowess,” she laughs. “I’ve lost far more bowls than I’ve won. In fact you could say I’m a good loser – I’ve had a lot of practice!”

Although Jan hasn’t collected any National or Centre titles, she has in fact squirreled away 5 or 6 Club titles. She knows what it’s like to simply be a ‘club player’. And sees her role as Vice President as representing other clubs and club players on the Board. The grassroots.

“The future of bowls lies in ‘participation’”, she predicts, “and for people to participate, bowls must be enjoyable. Bowls must become part of the community, and the community must become part of bowls. We must invite people into the clubs, and get clubs invited into the community.”

It’s a message that Jan will be taking with her as she fronts up at bowling club, bowling tournaments and bowling events around the country.

We’re looking forward to seeing you around the traps, Jan.

Welcome aboard!

by Rob Davis