Alphington Bowls Club prides itself on being the heartbeat of the local community and it’s the simple things that make it tick.
With the demolition of the neighbouring Amcor paper mill to make way for a 16ha mini-suburb of 2,500 homes called YarraBend, the club has officially become the oldest surviving ‘resident’ in the area.
Established in 1921, a mere six months after the paper mill was opened, Alphington has a long and proud history having almost faced the doors of extinction a decade ago before re-inventing itself as a club for the community.
“Alphington is ticking all the boxes in many ways,” said club president Mark Perry.
“We set out to be a club that is different and one of the main things we do at this club is really ‘walk the talk’ in terms of community involvement.
“We’re very much aware of our responsibilities of being a community club and that’s why we embrace the local community. We work very closely with the community centre, the local schools and community groups to fully utilise the club and promote more community feel.
“The community feel in Alphington is a special glue.”
Alphington is renowned for being more than just a bowls club and despite being nestled in among four other clubs in close proximity, they continue to welcome over 5,000 people a year to the club.
While importantly an impressive unit on the greens, Alphington have further impressed away from the rigours of competition by engaging with members of the community from all walks of life, most notably their Access All Abilities (AAA) bowls program for youths with disabilities.
With the YarraBend development to provide the club a long-term influx of potential bowls and social enthusiasts, Perry says the club is determined to embrace potentially 5,000 residents who are just a stone’s throw away.
“We will follow the same approach when the new development over the road comes on board. We look forward to that and we are very excited. One of the major challenges we have is accomodating and satisfying all the new growth,” Perry said.
“Obviously the impact will depend on the demographics but nonetheless there we’ve got a few thousand residents looking out their windows and over at this wonderful little club.
“We know that we’ll certainly get a lot of social interest and whether that turns into actual bowlers is a question no one can answer. But at the end of the day, our club is about being a community club so our numbers will grow and swell.”
Having stood the test of time for almost 100 years, Alphington are just one of many clubs around Australia who have embraced forward thinking while moving in new directions, a necessary shift given the national participation trends of the sport.
Armed with a vision of being the premier sporting and community club in Alphington, which is supported by a Strategic Plan, Perry says the club aims to continue to warm the hearts of its surrounding residents for many a year to come.
“We want to be here for another 100 years.”