Onerahi, 9 kilometres to the east of Whangarei, is one of those suburbs in New Zealand close enough to the city that residents can choose to ‘come from Whangarei’, yet far enough away they can choose to ‘come from Onerahi’.
Like Rolleston on the outskirts of Christchurch. Or Mosgiel on the outskirts of Dunedin.
The harbourside suburb is notable for being home to Whangarei’s airport. But it’s also home to a thriving bowling club.
Onerahi Bowling Club is one of the many ‘baby boomer’ bowling clubs throughout New Zealand – clubs established in the 1950’s after Kiwi men had returned from the war and settled into a civilian working life. The weekend became time for lawn bowls.
Today, the club has 130 members … 80 of whom are full-playing.
“We’re a club that’s highly competitive,” says Greenkeeper Bruce Horscroft, “But highly social as well. We’re open seven days a week for roll-ups … and a bit of fellowship. There’s always someone here, on or off the green. That’s quite unusual for a bowling club.”
Club Patron, Life Member and historian Colin Anderson
Bruce is one of those guys that’s done pretty much everything at the club. He’s been bowling for 45 years, playing out of Hillsborough and Glen Eden in Auckland, before work brought him north to Whangarei, and he joined Onerahi.
Bruce knows how to handle his bowls. He was in the Onerahi Four which came runner-up in the Champion of Champion Fours a few years back. But at the moment he’s got a bigger challenge on his hands.
“Our grass green has been really troublesome for the last 3 or 4 years,” he says. “I took my eye off it for a moment over summer, and it got Rolf’s Disease. It’s a fungus that thrives up here in the heat and humidity. We’ll sort it though.”
Fortunately Onerahi has two greens …an artificial as well.
“We laid the first artificial in Northland,” says Life Member and Patron, Colin Anderson. “I think it had just been put down the season I joined in 1982/1983. John Banks (MP) threw down the first bowl to open it.”
“It was a rubber green, and it was quite a rigmarole to lay. After preparing the surface, they laid down tar … like on the roads. Then finely chipped rubber was spread over the tar. It was then rolled with the same road roller you’d see being used for road construction.”
“A bloke then ran a mower over it. Even though it was rolled, there was always little bits of rubber sticking up. I heard that the guy who laid this one even got down on his hands and knees with a rotary grinder to make the finishing touches!”
“The black surface was then painted with a green rubberised paint. Funnily enough, it was the paint that was the death of the green in the end. It didn’t weather well and was constantly peeling and cracking. It didn’t make for a durable surface.”
“But It made a great base for the new artificials that got subsequently laid on top!”
John Banks MP, opens the new rubber green
The two greens will be put to the test shortly, when the club’s signature tournament, the annual ‘Fish Tournament’ (or the Wally Yovich Tournament as it’s called these days), is run over two days.
“It’s a Mixed two-bowl Triples,” says club member, Keith Lemon. “We get two full greens playing.”
“When it first started. ‘the Fish’ was renowned for its seafood breakfast, morning, lunch and afternoon teas,” recalls Keith. “Bowling started each day with a couple of pieces of bread wrapped around a mussel fritter. The trophy was even a ceramic fish. There’s been prettier trophies!”
Teams keep coming back to the Onerahi ‘Fish’ because they know they’re not only going to be on the receiving end of great hospitality, but some pretty competitive bowls as well.
That may include playing against local Onerahi bowlers who haven’t been commandeered for kitchen and chartroom duty during the tournament.
Bruce Horscroft admires ‘the Fish’
And there’s some pretty sharp players at Onerahi … the likes of John Dunn, who has over the years grabbed 45 Northland Centre titles. And the likes of Ann Halls ... a Past winner and runner-up in the Centre Singles Even Bruce Horscroft still knows his way to the jack.
Put them all together, and Onerahi’s got a lot of talent. As they proved the other day when they won the Centre Sevens.
Keep up the great work, Onerahi.