Pulling a rabbit out of the hat at Bay View Bowling Club

September 28, 2021

If you’d been wandering around that future site of Napier’s Bay View Bowling Club a hundred years ago, chances are you would’ve got wet feet.

The club bordered the Ahuriri Lagoon … a lagoon that all but disappeared when it was raised more than two-and-a-half metres by the 1931 Napier Earthquake.  There must have been some very surprised wading birds that February morning!

The upheaved area became the home to the Petane War Memorial Domain …. A council park dedicated to the remembrance of the fallen, and to a sports precinct for rugby, soccer, tennis, shooting … and in 1976, lawn bowls.

“The club was the initiative of two blokes : Arthur Osborne and Russell Chant,” says Club Secretary, Graeme Cross, “After an initial meeting in 1976, the Petane Bowling Club was eventually ready-to-go in 1978.  The name ‘Bay View’ didn’t come until 1979.”

Today the Bay View Bowling Club is one of 5 clubs in Napier, which includes Bluff Hill, Napier, Taradale and Omarunui.  There’s another three in Hastings (Hastings, Kia Toa and National Service) and one in Havelock North.  Despite some clubs closing over the years, the area is still well-endowed with places to play the beautiful game.

“We don’t have a large population in the immediate locality,” says Graeme “So most of our members come from other parts of Napier.  I guess they’ve heard through word-of-mouth that this is a nice club to be a member of.  We certainly think we’ve got something pretty special here.”

The figures support what Graeme is saying.

Bay View has just over 100 members, some 90-odd which are full-playing.  40% of the club are woman members.  And the real jewel in the statistics is that 20 or so are new members.

“One of the reasons for our healthy membership is the fact that we have a great coaching programme,” says Club Vice-President and Coach, Diane Zidich. “There’s always a good crowd here every Tuesday for coaching … whether it’s rain, hail or shine.”

But some of the club’s popularity may also be due to where it’s located,

“We’re right on the landing path to the airport,” says Graeme.  “So you can look out the plane window and see right over us.  The new cycleway also goes right by the club.  Plus, there’s hundreds here every weekend using the domain.  A lot of people know we’re here!”

And they love the club’s tournaments.

“One of the most unusual is ‘the Rabbiters’,” says Club President, Sue Lever. “It’s a Men’s Fours held on the first Monday of the New Year.  We have a stuffed rabbit which comes out of the trophy cabinet and sits on the green for the day!  And we do 5 crockpots of rabbit stew in the kitchen for lunch.  It’s a German recipe.  It’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but we have other food!”

The popularity of the Rabbiters means the club has to use 9 rinks on the green.

“But the big tournament each year is ‘The Red Steel’” says Club Captain & Coach Warren McCarthy. “It’s a Mixed Fours in the first weekend in September.  It starts Friday with a meet and greet, and blind draw.  Then there’s four games on the Saturday and three on the Sunday.”

“’Red Steel’ is the name of the sponsor …. they’ve always sponsored it, so the name has stuck.”

The bowls programme at Bay View has made them a very competitive club, and they are always ones to watch at Centre tournaments.

“We had a bit of a set back this last season,” says Graeme.  “Our new artificial, which was only put down in 2019, had to be taken up again and re-laid.  It put us out of action at the club for 2 months.  It was pretty disappointing.”

No doubt by the time this article goes to print, the Bay Viewers will be smiling again.  The green will be up and running.  And the rabbit will be getting ready to make another annual appearance.