Bowls clubs across Australia are consistently endeavouring to grow their membership base while also engaging with the local community.
The two go hand in hand and for the Bannockburn & District Bowls Club, their ‘local’ community is somewhat less defined, a rural township near Geelong of some 5000 in population.
With an ever-growing population moving into the regional township, the demographic is changing and the opportunities expanding.
Bannockburn has a median age of 35.3 compared to that of the national median of 37.4 years of age.
This figure alone suggests that if a bowls club wants to grow its profile, it needs to adapt to the needs and trends of the community.
Thankfully, club president Les McInerney has taken a community-first approach on board and is leading the innovative thinking at the club.
Upon hearing the Jack Attack concept presented by Regional Bowls Manager (RBM) Paul Holtschke at a Geelong region delegates meeting, McInerney was determined to make the program a success at Bannockburn.
Partnering with the then club secretary Peter Lalor, the two hit the streets, knocked on doors and spoke to people about the new concept that they believed would make bowls more attractive to the younger generation in their community.
Commencing with just six teams in 2015, the duo along with a good number of committed club volunteers were not discouraged but believed it was a solid foundation to work from.
With another year of promotion under their belt, the number of teams grew to 10 in 2016, which reaffirmed that the program was heading in the right direction.
Fast forward to 2018 and at present, the club is approaching the final night of their fourth season with some 12 teams competing and over 40 people participating each Thursday night over a six-week program.
Golden Plains Councillor Nathan Hansford has played in each of the four Jack Attack seasons and strongly believes that the club has become a central point of contact for all facets of the local community to come together.
Just last week, Hansford and his son joined as members with the view of being integral members of the club moving forward.
So far, the Jack Attack program has brought in six new members, which will no doubt continue to grow as the program continues to be a fixed event each February and March.
Increasing your profile as a club has so many added benefits which in the long term will ultimately grow your membership.
Growing your profile will always prove an evolving process, it takes work, good planning and commitment by your membership, but as Bannockburn have proven, it’s well worth the grind.
To top it off, last season a number of the winning teams donated back their prize-money to the club which brought a tear to McInerney’s eye, proof of what a connected community can provide and achieve.
Contribution by Paul Holtschke – Regional Bowls Manager (Metropolitan Melbourne/Geelong)