Lawn bowler Barry Wynks passed away last Thursday morning 10th December 2020 at the age of 68.
Barry was an old school type of bloke … the type of bloke who measured the closeness of his mates by the amount of stick he could give them … and the amount of stick that they gave him back.
He was the sort of guy that couldn’t be offended, despite the fact that his congenital disability … missing both an arm and a leg … meant that he had ample excuse to be perpetually offended in this new politically-correct world - if he wanted to be. But he didn’t.
He was genially called ‘Baz’, ‘Bazza’, ‘Wynksie’, and ‘Wynkle’. One of his best mates, fellow disabled lawn bowler, Mark Noble, even called him ‘Half Man’. Barry simply returned the favour by calling Mark ‘Fat Boy’. The behavioural tut-tutters of today would be horrified.
But Barry didn’t need ‘counselling’. He didn’t see himself as a ‘vulnerable’ person. He didn’t regard himself as being bullied. But merely saw such sobriquets as evidence he had a lot of mates who loved him. And he did.
“Barry was a top bloke,” says Bowls New Zealand High-Performance Manager, Kaush Patel. “Although I was ‘unlucky’ to share a room with him at the bowls once … let’s just say he was ‘larger than life’.”
New Zealand Development Manager, Steve Beel, is even more direct. “Barry was one of the good bastards,” he proffers. “It’s unbelievable that he’s gone so young. The bowls community will really miss him.”
Barry is survived by his wife, Linda, and his two daughters, Hayley & Angela, all of whom live in Palmerston North.
“He and Linda had just celebrated her retirement the night before he died,” says Mark. “They were readying themselves for years of retirement together. It’s unbelievably unfair.”
“We used to have Barry on about Linda,” continues Mark, “That the house where he and Linda lived together was only Barry’s fourth home.”
“His third home was the Rose and Crown where he enjoyed a Heineken or two. His second home was the Takaro Bowling Club where he had been a member for years. And his first home was the Awapuni Racetrack … Bazza loved the horses : watching them, having a few bob each way on them, analysing them, even owning them. He had a couple of horses that did alright too : ‘Kings Court’ comes to mind.”
“When he wasn’t at one of his four homes, Bazza had a brilliant day job. He worked at a place called the Ryder-Cheshire Foundation in Palmy, taking disabled people around the town to the rugby, to the pub, to wherever. He was effectively paid to socialise with them!”
Mark Noble first met Barry when he (Mark) played in the New Zealand Triples team at the 2003 Disabled World Champs.
“We ended up playing the Aussies in the final,” he recalls. “The lead in the Aussie team was crook, so they forfeited their first two bowls. At one stage we were down 4-9 and I said to our Two Peter Horne : ‘Where did you get this bloke Barry Wynks from? He’s leading for us. The Aussies have got no lead, and we’re still losing the battle of the front. Bazza must have heard me and pulled finger ... we ended up winning the gold.”
Barry Wynks and Mark Noble ended up playing a heap of bowls together for New Zealand.
“At the last two Commonwealth Games in Glasgow in 2014, and the Gold Coast in 2018, we had the gold in our hand both times, And the opposing skip took it away with his last bowl. It was pretty gutting.”
“But Bazza just laughed it off with one of his one-liners : ‘We didn’t have a leg to stand on’.”
“I always felt a bit of a fraud playing with Bazza. Here was a guy with a missing leg and a missing arm and he was classified as a B7. I only had no hip and a bung leg, and they made me a B6.”
Despite his disability, Barry was keener to play mainstream bowls than disabled bowls. And even with no leg and no arm, he was a very, very good bowler.
“He won numerous club and centre titles,” says Mark. “In fact I think he won 14 Manawatu Centre titles. That’s an incredible record for any able-bodied bowler, let alone a bowler with the disabilities Bazza had.”
“But even more incredible was the fact that Bazza was an excellent table tennis player as well. I think he may have 20 or more Manawatu Club titles. We’re not talking disabled titles, but open able-bodied titles.”
“He had this great serve, where he spun it so much, he could get the ping pong ball to bounce back on his side of the net!”
“He used to be a very good swimmer in his younger days as well. I used to have him on, telling him that if he only had one leg and one arm, he must’ve just gone around in circles. Bazza loved the p*** being taken out of him.”
When Barry had a hip operation in 2018, he stopped all sport. But this year, after COVID, he made a return to the bowling green after a break of two years.
“He got back into it just like that,” exclaims Mark. “He ended up being in the final of the Club Fours, the Club Triples, the semi-final of the Club Singles, and the last eight of the Centre Open Pairs last Sunday. It was an amazing performance for anyone, let alone someone who was disabled. And let alone someone who hadn’t picked up a bowl for two years.”
In 1982, they gave Barry a QSM for his services to lawn bowls, table tennis and the community. That’s nearly 40 years ago … most people take a lifetime to earn a nod from the Governor-General.
Imagine what he could’ve achieved with two legs and two arms. But maybe not much more. Barry had come to live with his artificial limbs as if they were his own skin and bones. And they had seemingly given him the mental strength to overcome anything.
“Whenever I was playing with him, he was always giving the opposition grief. ‘You wouldn’t want to get beaten by a couple of crips’ he would jibe. We had a lot of fun.”
But what was really great is that Barry made a point of making everyone comfortable around his shocking disability. He normalised it. He poked fun at it. And this disarming (excuse the pun!) behaviour made him a great bloke to be around.
We’re going to miss Barry’s banter and bowls very much. RIP