Wayne Sellars has seen a lot of change in Bowls.
There have been seismic level shifts in just about every aspect of the game between his first steps on the greens as a teenager in the mid to late 1960’s and his relatively recent return after retirement finally allowed him more time to play.
Wayne’s Bowls pedigree is a distinguished one. Over many seasons at local and national level he was feared by Singles opponents, and in Pairs and Fours he played at the front end of a lethal combination with his father and noted ex-jockey, Vic Sellars. Vic and sisters Joyce Osborne and Pearl Dymond were all national representatives, while Wayne is a double Gold Star holder in the Manawatu Centre and represented the North Island in the now long defunct Inter-Island fixture. Wayne then played out of the Northern club which regularly made the headlines in the heyday of legendary maestro Phil Skoglund. He has returned in the colours of Johnston Park, which is the amalgam of the former Feilding and Oroua clubs, to a dramatically changed bowls environment.
The most significant change he has found is the integration of women into all levels of the game with equal rights in every aspect of play and administration. This has happened against a historical background showing that for decades the Men’s Bowls establishment fought with all its might to tolerate female bowlers only in separate clubs and with their own separate administration. With plenty of scope still remaining for men and women to compete separately as desired, Wayne is stating the obvious when he says that this is a scenario that shouldn’t have had to be enforced by the national body.
Wayne also discovered that the seriously fast greens of old have vanished and that bowls now generally run straighter or narrower. This is of course largely a positive as it brings this country more into line with the rest of the world where the norm is slower greens and an aim of ‘rest and replace’ or ‘trail’ the jack rather than the ‘dead draw’ shot being perceived as the ultimate object. Short bowls have always been frowned upon, but it is now more vital than ever for players to reach the head with weight to spare.
Wayne recalls a time when dress codes were strictly enforced for both sexes and colour extended only to hatbands. Creams, rather than whites, were very much the order of the day and the length of women’s skirts was prescribed, with jewellery banned. Flat-soled shoes were an absolute must. Hence, he was somewhat bemused to find himself on greens where club colours dominate and both head and footwear is largely up to the individual.
The role of the umpire is now restricted to the laws of the game and there is little or no enforcement of regulations related to personal choice. This is of course only a reflection of less formal dress choices in the country generally, and Wayne rightly observes that a sport which is struggling to find participants, especially in younger age groups, is not in a position to deter possible recruits with unnecessary enforcements and negativity. After all, clubs no longer have waiting lists for membership or rules excluding players under a certain age, and tournaments are no longer swamped with entries.
Overall, Wayne finds himself bowling in a much more relaxed environment which still retains plenty of competitive edge for those seeking it. While he misses the challenge of dead drawing the shot around bowls arrayed in front of the head, he acknowledges that this is a game which is now trying hard to provide an attractive sporting environment that reflects modern social trends and aligns well with overseas developments.
Most importantly, Wayne still enjoys playing bowls.