Former Bowls New Zealand Vice-President Robin Jefferson has lived in Gisborne for the last 30 years.
There’s nothing unusual in that – lots of people have lived in Gisborne for 30 years (it’s wonderful part of the country) and lots of people have also lived in lots of other towns for 30 years.
But being brought up by school teaching parents and being bumped from school to school, then working in the bank and being bumped from town to town, meant that prior to Gisborne, Robin had been a gypsy … temporarily settling wherever the opportunities in life took him and his wife Mary and his four sons.
That itinerancy started in Christchurch in 1941, and carried on through Glenavy, Seaward Downs (near Edendale), Tuatapere and back to Christchurch as a boarder at St Bede’s College. It restarted with what was to become a working career with the Bank of New Zealand …. joining in Christchurch and then being transferred to Riverton, Invercargill, Wellington, Oamaru, Dunedin. And then to start a new branch of the BNZ at of all places - Suva, Fiji. It was 1979 and Robin was 38.
“The was where I first got into bowls,” says Robin, “We were a new bank in town and we had no customers. My job was to get out and about and make things happen. I had two years to do it.”
Robin became hooked on bowls, winning ten Fiji national titles in the short time he and the family were enjoying their Fiji adventure. “Even though I was a junior, I was already pretty familiar with the game,” says Robin. “I was at the Opening Day of the Heathcote Valley Bowling Club in Christchurch back in October 1944 where my grandparents played, I had also spent hours when I was a kid in Tuatapere, watching the bowls at the local club. I remember trying to judge the speed of the bowl as it left the bowler’s hand … scoring it a good, a bad, or a dreadful. I always thought the ladies were clearly the best!”
The initiation into bowls in Fiji was enough to encourage Robin to continue with bowls when he returned to a head office marketing role at the BNZ in Wellington. “I joined the Plimmerton Bowling Club, and then the Whitby Bowling Club.”
However, the bank wasn’t finished with Robin. “I had gained a reputation as a guy that makes things happen, so they despatched me to Palmerston North and then to Napier in relieving roles. Then to Gisborne. They couldn’t get us out of town. I ended up leaving the bank and setting up a retail gallery in Gladstone Road. Mary and I ran the business for 21 years.”
Wedged around his day job, Robin became heavily involved in bowls (see below). Not just playing at club, centre and national level, but administering, organising, coaching, mentoring, and promoting the game. Robin became the pen of bowls in the Gisborne Herald, and the voice of bowls on the local radio station 2ZG.
Robin had always been keen on his sports.
“Right from school at St Bede’s, I was always known as the guy with a ball in his hands. Whether it was rugby (1st XV), cricket (1st X1), squash or indoor bowls.”
Robin went on to play first class cricket for Otago and Wellington, under 20 and colts rugby for Canterbury, and indoor bowls for North Otago and Otago.
“I was always practising. And it was a philosophy I took into bowls … practising for hours myself ... and encouraging people I coached or mentored to practise, practise and practise.”
“I like to think that some of that rubbed off on the bowlers under my wing, like Shannon McIlroy and Steve Goldsbury.”
Sadly, Robin’s wife and lifelong companion Mary passed away least year. But he still has heaps of support from his four avid sporting sons, as well as 7 grandchildren who are emerging as avid sportskids as well. “Two of the girls have also taken to ballet.”
Forty years after first starting the game, Robin is still as keen on his bowls as ever. “I was in New Plymouth the other week, then down to Christchurch the following.”
At 78, Robin feels he is coming to the end of his bowling career, despite the fact that he was still good enough to win the Centre Singles for the 10th time this year. “I haven’t given up yet,” he laughs. “I’m still planning to keep the other bowlers in Gisborne honest, and come up with the occasional good result!”
ROBIN JEFFERSON AT A GLANCE
As a club member
1979-1982 Suva Bowling Club, Suva
1982-1983 Plimmerton Bowling Club, Plimmerton
1982-1983 Whitby Bowling Club, Whitby
1990-Now Gisborne Bowling Club, Gisborne
1990-Now Poverty Bay Bowling Club, Gisborne
1990-Now Kahutia Bowling Club, Gisborne
As an outdoor bowls player
1979-1982 National Fiji titles (10)
1980-1981 Fiji East Representative
1982-1984 Wellington Junior Representative
1984-1989 Wellington Representative
1986-1987 New Zealand Champion of Champions Singles Finalist
1990-Now Gisborne East Coast Representative
1992 Winner National Pairs (with Peter Belliss)
1992-1994 North Island Representative
2009-2011 Finalist National Club Championships
2013-2015 Finalist National Club Championships
1979-Now Club titles (83)
1979-Now Centre titles (58)
1979-Now Other tournament titles with purse over $200 (35)
As an indoor bowls player
1993 New Zealand Indoor Bowls Representative, World Indoor Finals, Preston
2007-Now Runner-up, PBA Singles Final (3 times)
As a coach/mentor
1981 Mentor Maria Lum-On and Willow Fong (Fiji), Silver Medallists World Pairs
1984 Coach Plimmerton Bowling Club
1987 Coaching Director, Wellington Centre
2004 Mentor Shannon McIlroy
2008 Mentor Steve Goldsbury
As an administrator
President, Gisborne East Coast Centre
2017-2019 Vice-President, Bowls New Zealand