• Why the Central Highlands Bowls Division is declining rapidly and can it be fixed?


      0 Not allowed! Not allowed!


      The Central Highlands Bowls Division is a country bowls association that comprises of 11 clubs, ranging from Trentham to Lancefield and going as far south as Diggers Rest and as far north as Kyneton. Here is a breakdown of the bowling clubs facilities and standards:

      Bacchus Marsh – 2 good carpet greens – Extremely competitive division one side
      Diggers Rest – 1 average synthetic surface – Competitive division two side
      Gisborne – 1 poor grass green and one proposed carpet green – Non-competitive division one side
      Kyneton – 1 good grass green and 1 great grass green – Extremely competitive division one side and reigning division two premiers
      Kyneton Golf – 1 great grass green – Extremely competitive division one side
      Lancefield – 1 average grass green – Reigning division one premiers
      Macedon – 1 average grass green – competitive division two side
      Mt Cottrell – 1 average synthetic surface – competitive division two side
      Romsey – 1 good synthetic surface – Bordering on being competitive at division one level
      Trentham – 1 good grass green - Bordering on being competitive at division one level
      Woodend – 1 average grass green and 1 good carpet green - Extremely competitive division one side

      This summary gives you a fair indication of how each side ranks within the competition and the surfaces that they have available.



      The Central Highlands Bowls Division (CHBD) has been on a steady decline in both on-field standard and off-field standard ever since I began playing bowls, which can be put down to two major changes that have occurred over the past five years:

      -Melton departing for the metropolitan competition
      -Pennant being reduced to a 14 week season, with a 6-7 week break over Christmas

      Melton departing was inevitable. They have an enormous home ground advantage which enables them to compete at a high metropolitan standard, they have a large member base and have grand plans to become a powerhouse of the western suburbs, so good on them.

      Pennant being reduced to a 14 week season was not inevitable. From all accounts the decision was made to help the grass greens out by giving them a break over the Christmas break, despite there never being a problem with the quality of most grass green after Christmas and those clubs not having a high level of bowling on them. The 14 week season has all but killed the interest CHBD bowlers have in pennant, especially when you throw in a heat or wash out.



      The CHBD has a HUGE advantage over several country competitions. That advantage is that most clubs reside within a 50-65km radius from Melbourne, these clubs are a 30 minute drive from many western and northern suburbs and these towns already have many high quality bowlers who drive past at 11am on a Saturday morning to seek a better competition down in Melbourne.

      What is the responsibility of the CHBD board?

      -They must ensure the longevity of the competition
      -They must strive to provide the greatest standard of competition possible
      -They must act out of the best interests of the competition, not their own clubs or even their own beliefs

      Is the CHBD currently doing some or all of the above? The is a point for discussion.

      What does the CHBD need to do to get back on track?


      1. The CHBD MUST either merge with the Central Bowls Division or acquire Broadford, Kilmore, Seymour and Wallan into the competition
      2. The CHBD MUST return to an 18-week season with a strong relegation/promotion system
      3. With many CHBD clubs now having artificial surfaces and these clubs all having good relationships amongst each other they must organise and bring in a good winter pennant competition
      4. A high quality website which is a central hub for all club news, tournament information, pennant and state event results and draws


      Let’s look at these points in greater detail

      1 - To enable an 18-week season with a strong relegation/promotion system the CHBD needs to acquire at least 3 division one standard clubs into the competition. Picture this structure:

      Division 1
      Bacchus Marsh
      Kyneton
      Kyneton Golf
      Lancefield
      Romsey
      Trentham
      Woodend
      Kilmore
      Seymour
      Wallan

      Division 2
      Diggers Rest
      Gisborne
      Kyneton 2
      Macedon
      Mt Cottrell
      Woodend 2
      Kilmore 2
      Broadford
      Seymour
      Wallan 2

      Instantly the competition looks more vibrant, competitive and structured than it is currently. Surely it is in both competitions best interests to facilitate this move for the better of clubs, members and the growth of lawn bowls amongst target demographics in their local areas? Who knows, maybe one day you could even throw Sunbury, Avenue, Melton and a few other clubs into the mix?

      2 - Promotion and relegation is a MUST if you are to take your pennant competition seriously. This season Gisborne went winless for the entire season and will more than likely stay up in Division 1. Clubs should be playing for something no matter what, whether it is to starve off relegation, playing for top four or the double chance come March.

      3 - Like metropolitan Melbourne, once pennant finishes most clubs die off between March and September. The most progressive club in the competition, Bacchus Marsh, is running a winter competition to give their members something to look forward to each week over winter, but it must go further than that. Whether it’s a 10 week 8 a side or a 8 week 12 a-side the CHBD has to be looking to ensure the profile of lawn bowls does not decline over the winter months

      4 - This point speaks for itself. It’s 2014, it’s time to shell out some cash and get with the times




      People are going to ask, why don’t you get on the board and help drive this change? Having been on boards and committees before like so many of you, change is not easy to drive amongst a group of people who do not want it to happen. The CHBD needs a group of clubs to be driving change, to demand the type of competition they want and deserve and to work hard until it is delivered.

      I must also point out that the people on the board, match committee and delegates work extremely hard. A lot of agendas are pushed from club level and I have NO DOUBT that many of them feel that the competition is on the decline, but don't have the ability or numbers to push for major reform.

      Without having the statistics in front of me here are the declines and negative changes that have happened in the CHBD over the past 5 years:

      -Tuesday pennant has become farcical – Division one is down to 8 players a side with no relegation/promotion system
      -Saturday pennant has dropped from 18-14 weeks
      -Division 1 and 2 have been cut from 10 a division to 8 a division
      -I would guess that pennant participation has dropped at least 50% between 2006 – 2014 – or at least much greater than the metropolitan pennant participation decline
      -State event entries have declined rapidly
      -Melton leaving the competition and not being replaced
      -Wallan leaving the competition and not being replaced

      IF certain changes do not happen this is how I see the CHBD in a decade’s time:

      Bacchus Marsh – Will join the Ballarat competition
      Diggers Rest - Will go metro/would be stupid not to
      Gisborne – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition
      Kyneton – Will go to Bendigo/Maryborough
      Kyneton Golf – Will go to Bendigo/Maryborough
      Lancefield – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition
      Macedon – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition
      Mt Cottrell – Will go metro/would be stupid not to
      Romsey – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition
      Trentham – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition
      Woodend – Will stay in a poor CHBD competition


      Myself, like so many others, have a vested interest in this competition becoming strong and viable again. We live locally and the downtown commute is not appetising. One can only hope that the competition can improve dramatically, if not lawn bowls participation in the Central Highlands will drop dramatically and many disillusioned bowlers will be lost to the sport.

      I'd love to know the thoughts of some CHBD bowlers.


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