In a huge recognition of her knowledge, her skills and her experience, Helen Stallard has been appointed to the World Bowls Laws & Constitution Committee.
It’s a real feather in her cap. And Helen is looking forward to coming to grips with this new challenge, which comes on top of her existing roles with both indoor and outdoor bowls at Bowls New Zealand.
“The committee is responsible for overseeing the laws of the game,” explains Helen. “For reactively reviewing suggestions for changes that come from the worldwide bowls community, and proactively recommending changes to the board and the annual general meeting.”
“It’s also responsible for interpreting those laws, and fostering a high level of understanding of the laws amongst the international bowls community.”
Many bowlers may be surprised to learn that such a committee even exists … they may never have even noticed any changes in the laws of the game while they’ve been playing.
And that would be understandable. Bowls does tend to be a ‘quiet’ game in terms of change … particularly compared to other sports like rugby where the laws seemed to be relentlessly and continuously debated. Every year for instance, there seems to be a new ruling on how straight the ball needs to be fed into the scrum or thrown into a lineout!
“Our laws do change though,” says Helen. “Perhaps more subtly. One recent example was the fact that if a skip stops his own team’s bowl from reaching the head, then that team forfeits the whole game rather than just losing that particular bowl.”
“Bigger changes have happened in the past,” Helen adds. “For example, the idea of having a universal set of laws recognised in every bowls-playing country didn’t come in until quite recently. Before then, countries were left to their own devices.”
“Those first international laws were published in ‘The Laws of the Sport’ in 2008. It’s the game’s ‘Bible’ … 60 laws of the game encapsulated in an A6 booklet of 110 pages. There’s been two new editions since then … a revision in 2011 and one in 2015. The 4th edition is about to come out next year, and will be in effect in New Zealand from 1st April 2023.”
“However, there wont be any really noticeable changes … the new edition contains what I’d describe as 20 or so tidy-ups which everyone should understand very easily. The committee puts a lot of effort into ensuring that it’s in plain English, and not some unfathomable lawspeak. Like previous editions, the book’s been certified by ‘Crystal Mark’.”
Helen replaces former Bowls New Zealand Chief Executive, Kerry Clark, on the Laws & Constitution Committee.
“There’s 6 members of the committee,“ explains Helen. “They come from all around the world … Allan Thornhill from England is the Convenor (replacing Kerry Clark), Nick Watkins from Canada, Mark Cowan from Australia, Roger Black from Scotland, Shubhra Kathuria from India, and of course, now, myself.”
“They’re not strangers though. I already know them all.”
And like Helen, they’re all there performing a labour of love. There’s no stipend. There’s no paid junkets to exotic locales to get together and ruminate while dining on the fatted calf. The committee is to all intents and purposes ‘virtual’.
“We email each other as required,” says Helen. “And I imagine there may even be the odd zoom meeting. I guess if some or all of us end up at the World Bowls championships or the Comm Games together, then we’ll make a point of meeting face-to-face. But there’s no budget for us to do that.”
That will resonate with Kiwi bowlers … who will be interested in keeping the laws of the game simple, and the costs of playing the game even simpler!
But that wont stop them from being extremely grateful to not only have someone like Helen Stallard going into bat for the way we want to play bowls in New Zealand, but grateful to have Helen Stallard herself … she’s someone we’ve all appreciatively relied on for years for keeping order on the greens in New Zealand.
Congratulations Helen. And a big, big thanks for taking up this role.