Why Piss Heads Shouldn’t Be Office- Bearers

princess park members
princess park members

Rejuvenating Bowls Clubs.

Our club lost some prominent members last season because we’d become ‘too progressive’ in their reckoning. There are those who still doggedly cling onto a quasi Edna Everage Ethos of a 1960s Suburban Bowls Club as the ideal.

Princess Park is a small club on the ascent, having won 4 pennants in the last three seasons [ RVBA & Bowls World combined]. Not bad for a club with only 55 bowlers on the books. We’ve taken some proactive measures to increase revenue streams which have proven to be a windfall for the club’s coffers.

But we ruffled some feathers with The Turnaround.

“This isn’t a proper bowls club.”

You can’t be all things to all people, this holds true in bowls clubs as it does in most fields of human interaction.

We formed a partnership with a mob called Fancy Hanks who run a commercial kitchen-Boutique BBQ on site. With a combination of clever marketing and social media, these guys are ‘getting bums on seats’ and introducing our club’s facilities to a broader audience. An audience we would never have reached using so-called conventional methods. It’s been a win-win arrangement for them and us. On a good weekend, the club turns over more in bar sales than what it would have for a whole financial year a little over 6 years ago [ that’s a staggering turn around ]. And the atmosphere created by the dinners and the numbers barefoot bowling makes for some enjoyable-lively weekends, albeit some very busy ones.

Crowds which a small membership like ours struggles to cope with at times.

But it’s a problem a lot of bowls clubs would like to have.

Over the years I’ve come across a number of Eddie McGuire wannabes nominating themselves for their club‘s presidency. Their principle qualifications being enjoying hearing the sound of their own voices. And those clubs headed by these types invariably subscribe to a modus operandi which centres around blokes boozing on and taking turns in regurgitating tales of kitty trailing- “ did I ever tell you about that game when they were holding 6 and I trailed the kitty into the ditch with my last bowl” during ad breaks.

Thankfully those types don’t get a look in at Princess Park.

We’ve got a no-nonsense woman overseeing the club’s direction, a direction which the majority of our members believe is an exciting path to be travelling in. She is steadfast about running with an alternative model, albeit one which has alienated some members along the way.

Our President, Ann Taylor held former positions as Australian Education Union Deputy President alongside a stint as President of Victoria Trades Hall Council. She’s been an integral member of a quasi Gang of Four in the transformation of our club.

A ‘misogynist ocker-boozer element’ tried to oust her last year in a half baked coup attempt – “this is no longer a proper bowls club, she doesn’t understand bowls.”

Well, what she did understand was that a handful of blokes boozing on within earshot of the club’s entrance wasn’t a good look in attracting potential new members. The majority of our members understood that we had a woman of substance at the helm. And backed her as she showed the fortitude and stomach to hold her ground and see off this unwanted advance. I’ve facetiously compared her to the original Iron Lady- Margaret Thatcher’s attempt to squash the British Trade Union movement.

I don’t know if she’d appreciate this analogy.

But I’ve nicknamed her Princess Park’s Iron Lady.

What these blokes consider a “proper bowls club” no longer cuts it in the rapidly changing demographics of our inner-city Melbourne location. Think outside the square, make some bold changes and run with it. Running with the old adage, ‘fortune favours the brave’ has seen our club kick both fiscal and on green goals these last few seasons.

60% of our total membership is currently Social Members.

We’ve created such an enjoyable atmosphere at Princess Park that people are walking in off the street and deciding to join up. Yes, we’re mindful that our task is to convert these social members into full bowling members. But at least we’ve got something to work with. Creating the right atmosphere is paramount to enticing new members.

And those clubs held to ransom by a staunch drinking element who dominate proceedings are limiting themselves and narrowing their options. Just because a core group of members are putting most of the money across the bar, doesn’t necessarily mean they know what’s best for the future of the club. Excessive drinking and strategic planning aren’t exactly ideal bedfellows!

“But I can’t find the teacups in the kitchen. They’ve moved them. We’ve always kept the teacups in that bottom drawer.”

Yes, a bowls club can’t be all things to all bowlers. But those clubs coping with fiscal pressures and not attracting new members will invariably have to bite the bullet. And decide in which direction to steer the club’s future. A future which may disconcert some but will hopefully benefit the majority, and more importantly The Club.

The blokes who can regale the bar with witty tales of their on green exploits aren’t necessarily those best suited or qualified to take on roles of responsibility at clubs.

In my experience, it’s the no-nonsense types who invariably eschew the limelight who are effective administrators and do invaluable work behind the scenes at their clubs. Unfortunately, their efforts are all too often poo hoed by the Eddie Maguire Wannabes and their hangers-on- disciples.

Yes, you can’t be all things to all people. There are those afraid of change. But I suspect many more bowls clubs will face the prospect of mounting financial pressures and invariably folding if they aren’t willing to embrace change. Bowls clubs set in a Menzies era time warp will invariably find it more and more difficult to engage with local communities and potential audiences in the future.


Princess Park’s Iron Lady. Our president understands the changing demographics of the neighbourhood and how best to capitalize on them.
And this strategy is paying dividends at Princess Park.

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Denis ‘the red’ Evans- A staunch True Believer.

He gave the ALP away around the time Al Grasby lost his seat of Griffiths.

But he’s a True Believer when it comes to The Iron Lady’s presidency.

a footnote, Al Grasby would have approved of our multicultural membership mix.

His visionary policies are at play today at Princess Park, where a historically staunch Anglo Celtic domain has embraced and integrated our eclectic mix of superannuated wogs.

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One of the Gang of Four, Sean Doyle. An engaging raconteur and current Singles Champion. The former Bush Whacker’s commitment to the club’s rejuvenation is second to none.

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The Princess Park Dream Team- From Left- Peter ‘ professor’ Green,
Paul ‘pain in the ass’ Soldatich, Peter ‘perfect’ Parussolo and Giulio ‘father of the pain in the ass’ Soldatich.

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Unlike Red Dennis, Ivan Gaal is the antithesis of a True Believer. When you‘re weaned and forced fed Bolshevik Clap Trap as a child one invariably rebels.
At 76 the former Wrestler, Canoeist and Filmmaker is still ‘hungry’ to learn new tricks and in Princess Park’s progressive and supportive environment has blossomed.
Alongside Chris Smith won The club’s men’s pairs this year.

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