Riverhead: Getting its ducks in a row

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If you live in Auckland, you’ve almost certainly heard of Riverhead. It’s like
a Kardashian, it’s famous for being famous. It’s a rite of passage for
Aucklanders to take the small ferry to the upper reaches of the Waitemata
Harbour, dodging the tides, to land at the historic Riverhead Tavern and
with a beer in hand contemplate a successful pilgrimage.

There’s a bowling club down the road. And while Riverhead has once
been a tiny community separated from the big smoke, Auckland’s
demand for new housing is causing the city to creep closer, and the
Riverhead Bowling Club is benefiting from the influx of new residents who
want to work remotely, but play locally.

The club is doing what it can to get these new locals (and existing locals for
that matter!) playing bowls.

Like many bowling clubs around the country, President of the Riverhead
Bowling Club, Jim Corric, has discovered the value of opening the club up
to the community. “Over the past month or so, we’ve run a number of
‘have a go’ afternoons at the club,” says Corric. “At the first one, we had
over 100 people turn up to have a go on our one green … half of
Riverhead must have been here!”

That translated into new members. Five people signed up on the day, and
more took away forms to join. “We’re only a small club,” says Corric, “with
30 full members, 30 or 40 social members, and less than 10 juniors. So new
members are the name of the game.”

On reflection, Corric puts down the success of the open days to three

Firstly, marketing the day. “We need to spread the word far and wide
because most people will never know an open day is on … let alone
decide to come. We put up roadside signs, did a flyer drop, and used the
power of Facebook. They were all pretty basic things, but did the trick.”

“Secondly, we enlisted the help of a number of students to run the day –
they helped with the advertising, met and greeted the people when they
arrived, and looked after them on the green.”

And thirdly, Corric knew that people had to to enjoy the day. “There’s no
point in to going to a whole lot of effort for an open day, and people walk away unimpressed or even ambivalent. We want people to come back,
and take up the game.”

Again, there was nothing clever required there. Corric manned the BBQ,
‘Dino’ manned the bar, and club members were on hand to explain the
physics of the bias to the uninitiated.

Riverhead epitomises the ‘can do’ spirit of many community-based
bowling clubs throughout New Zealand. They are not just a bowling club.
They are a hub for the local community to gather. The club has just
recently finished doing up its kitchen because people like to eat when they
gather. Chez Riverhead Bowling Club is in demand.

“It’s important for our bowls too,” adds Corric. “The Glen Wood Invitation
Tournament is our big annual fours tournament, and we put on two lambs
on a spit. The meal alone keeps players coming back!”

But Corric knows that if he and his team are to get people in to bowls, it’s
not just going to be about the kitchen … or tournament bowls. “We have
to make bowls fun. On open days, we play corner-to-corner … or spider.
We even have our own version of ‘trick’ bowls – with the closest one to the
yellow duck.”

That’ll raise a curious eyebrow for many bowlers. Corric’s day job is at
Englefield Bathroomware, famous for its small iconic yellow ducks. Every
year thousands of Englefield ducks are used in fundraising events around
the country – raced down rivers, fished out of bathtubs and raffled off, all
for great charities and fundraising causes.

And now the ‘Yellow Duckshave’ has become part of the bowls culture at

Keep up the good work, Riverhead!

-Rob Davis