Having a ‘disability’ doesn’t mean you’re disabled

News, Our People

Kerrin Fair

Bowlers may have been a little surprised to see a ‘wheelchaired’ colleague wheeling up and down the greens in the recent Summerset Singles & Pairs Nationals held in Auckland in January.

Those in-the-know bowlers from the Kia Toa Bowling Club in Hastings will simply recognise it as business as usual for Kerrin Fair – one of their fellow bowlers doing what he does best – playing bowls.

But even for Kerrin this was a first – the first time he had ever played at the Bowls New Zealand Nationals.

“I don’t really regard myself as ‘disabled’ on the bowling green – It’s a great leveller.” explains Kerrin. “Bowls is a sport where I can play against anyone. I’m just a bit wobbly in the legs! But if I’m good enough on the day, I may win the game,”

Kerrin loved the tournament. He and his fellow Kia Toa bowler, Bill Buchan scored three wins in the qualifying rounds of the Pairs, just one short of making post-section play. “We wont talk about the Singles,” laughs Kerrin.

“There are a lot of great bowlers out there, and it was just good to get out there and play even though I didn’t register a win. I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to play some of the best players in New Zealand – which is the great thing about the Nationals.”

For Kerrin, preparing for a tournament is a little more than laundering his whites and polishing his bowls. To stop the greenkeeper getting grumpy, Kerrin has to pimp out his wheelchair with a minimum 45mm wide slicks on the rear, and the front wheels need to be raised to regulation height. “I use a couple of BMX tyres, cover them with inner tubes, then wrap them up in duct tape.” The result is an ‘impressionless’ ride across the green.

Kerrin has been playing bowls for the last 4 years. Outside work (the 38 year old works as a Database Administrator at the Iwi incorporation Ngāti Kahungunu), Kerrin plays and watches bowls.

Like most bowlers, Kerrin rolled down a few bowls in business house bowls, before he got bitten by the bowling bug. “I filled in for my grandad’s business house team a couple of times, but Katie Portas was the one who really got me into the sport.” Katie was a gold medallist in the visually-impaired singles at the 1994 Commonwealth games in Victoria, Canada.

Kerrin has found that he can compete in both able-bodied and disabled competitions – which these days he happily moves between.

In both 2017 and 2018, Kerrin played in the disabled section of the Australian Open on the Gold Coast – in the Singles, and in the Pairs with Reilly Paterson from Balclutha. It’s an experience they both plan to repeat.

However, he’s just as keen to repeat playing at the Summerset Nationals, and is even trying to rustle together a team to play in the Fours Nationals in March in Wellington. “I’ll also be back for the Singles and Pairs” adds Kerrin, “wherever they are.”

Sounds like bowlers around the country will be seeing a lot more of Kerrin on the green.

Great stuff, Kerrin.