Chris Le Lievre : The bowler who never gives up

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Chris Le Lievre

Bowls is a funny game. Some days that little bird lands on your shoulder, and today is your day. Other days you can’t win a trick. And when Chris Le Lievre and his skip, Richard Girvan were knocked out deep into post section play of the Summerset Pairs Nationals in January, they must have felt that all the birds and tricks were with the Victoria team of Ray Martin and Richard Corry.

Girvan and Le Lievre were up 16-12 on the last end. Three times the pair held shots and placed bowls in areas to negate Martin from producing a big count. And three times Ray Martin killed the end with his final bowl. Then on the fourth replay, Martin played an almost impossible trail of the jack to give their team an unlikely four – forcing an extra end which Martin won.

“I was disappointed, but not annoyed,” observes Le Lievre. “We had played well, coming from behind and put ourselves in a good position. It’s just that Ray played a shot at the end we all dream of. Every bowler’s been on the receiving end of one of those shots. We tip our hats to him.”

“I was more annoyed at myself in the Singles Semi-final. I could’ve had that, but let myself down.”

That annoyance is quite understandable. Ex-pat Kiwi, Chris Le Lievre, now living on the Gold Coast of Australia returns most years for the Nationals in a bid to claim the only title he has never won – the National Singles title. This year he went so close.

Chris has both a Pairs (2011) and a Fours (2008) title under his belt. He’s also won a clean sweep of the titles in the New Zealand Club Championship Pathways event, recently reintroduced by Bowls New Zealand as the Champion of Champions.

After the 2019 edition of the Nationals, Chris still has unfinished business – even though he now lives in Australia.

Before shifting across the ditch, Chris was Secretary/Manager of the pre-amalgamated Onehunga Bowling Club in Auckland. It was a great job for someone who loves bowls, who at the same time can make a vocation of the sport they love.

In 2014, he moved to Victoria. There was no wife or kids to consult, Chris was a free agent to do what and when he felt like. He joined the Glenroy Club in Melbourne.

Three years later in 2017, Chris was attracted to the Musgrave Hill Bowls Club on the Gold Coast. “It became quite obvious that the Gold Coast was going to be where all the action was in Australia over the next few years,” says Chris. “The Commonwealth Games were coming up in 2018. The Asia Pacific Championships and the Australian Open will be held here in June this year, and the Trans-Tasman and Multi-Nations internationals in November. The World Championships will also be held on the Coast next year in 2020.”

A triumvirate of three super clubs on the Gold Coast – Broadbeach, Helensvale and Musgrave Hill, have made it very easy for bowls administrators to fancy the Gold Coast as a tournament venue over other parts of Australia. Wintering Kiwi Bowlers will be very familiar with them, finding they can continue to play their favourite game during a mid-year ‘bowlscation’ while the unused greens back in New Zealand lie forlornly in the frost and intemperate weather.

Countless hours on the pristine Gold Coast greens, consistently exposed to internationally-ranked bowlers, have given Chris and Broadbeach-based Kiwi Katelyn Inch a competitive advantage. So much so, that both have been recently named in the New Zealand High Performance Squad.

But the upcoming international events are going to mean that Chris has his work cut out for him at Musgrave Hill. “That’s what I like about the job,” says Chris. “The challenges are never-ending. I have a great boss in Brian Baldwin, who is Secretary/Manager of the club. Brian’s an ex-pat Kiwi too.”

If the name rings a bell, it should. Brian was a New Zealand representative 20 years ago in 1998. And Brian has something Chris desperately craves – a New Zealand National Singles title won back in 1995 playing out of the Paritutu Club. No doubt Brian will be there to coax Chris to another Singles attempt in 2020.

Keep coming back home Chris. We love seeing you here.

-Rob Davis