‘Murray in a Hurry’ looking to ease back at Belfast

There’s something over 450 bowling clubs throughout New Zealand.

Sometimes, they’re clubs with burgeoning memberships like Bowls Orewa on Auckland’s North Shore.  But more often they’re quarter acre tables of green proudly tended by New Zealand’s many small communities … like Oakura, Okato, Rahotu, Opunaki, Pihama and Manaia which pockmark the Taranaki Coast.

Whatever size the club, many have one thing in common : they are powered by people who are dedicated and passionate volunteers, who often simply see themselves as custodians minding the club for future generations of bowlers. They are often determined that the club should never fail … and that determination may be the difference between those clubs that enjoy bowls well into their second century of life, and those that fall by the wayside.

Such clubs may only have a sole person in the engine room … like Piha Bowling Club did in the 1990’s when energizer bunny Des Pike presided over the club, managed the bar, kept the green, organised the bowls and more.  But they’re more often clubs that have weaponised a wider handful of enthusiasts to parent the club to continued success.

Belfast Bowling Club in the northern suburbs of Christchurch is one such club.  And while no longer a ‘small’ club (it’s touching on a hundred full-playing members), its success has been the result of a dedicated team captained by President ‘Murray in a Hurry’ Jones.

The affectation ‘Murray in a Hurry’ says it all .. Murray Jones has never had time to stop … there’s always been too much to do at the club.  But after 10 years at the helm, Murray is looking to step down.

“I have heard it before,” laughs Vice-President Greg Clapp, “I’m not eager to take up the role.  But Murray reckons this time it’s for sure.”

“He would be a hard act to follow … and frankly is probably unfollowable.  Over the years Murray’s put a humungous amount of time, effort and even money into the club, and can take a lot of credit for where the club is today.”

“We hosted preliminary rounds of the National Open Singles and Pairs earlier this year, and the club enjoyed universal acclamation … the quality of our natural green (It’s spectacular) and the setting … we came 3rd in the local garden beautification contest this year.”

“The amazing thing about Murray is that he isn’t just ‘presidential’,” adds Greg, “Sure.  He’s built a great team of volunteers around him, but he still continues to get his hands ‘dirty’ … doing this, doing that, and just about everything around the club.”

“He’s the ‘chief caterer’ … making sure that members and visitors alike are spoilt with a roast, or lamb shanks or corned silverside or whatever.  He’s continually working with the gaming machine trusts making sure that Belfast Bowling Club is always uppermost in their minds when it comes to funding.  He’s got a great financial head .. some say he’s probably still got his first thrupence in his pocket!”

“And if Murray doesn’t know how to do something, he’ll find someone who does, He’s north of 70 years old, but he’s still fit as a fiddle.  As is his wife Carolyn, who also contributes hugely to the club.”

Chris Lander, Commercial Manager at Bowls New Zealand, is equally complimentary.

“I don’t know Murray that well,“ says Chris.  “But I know he’s a good rooster … a real mover and shaker.  He takes a real pride in ensuring the club looks well, and presents well.”

“He’s great at raising money … there’s a raft of solar panels along the roof of the clubhouse which were installed through grant funding.  Yet the consequent power savings come back to the club.  That’s smart finances.”

Come the Belfast Bowling Club AGM mid-year, Murray will signal that he’s done his dash.  And will be able to concentrate on enjoying the life of a Life Member.

He will have done a remarkable job.

Thanks for everything, Murray.