Local juniors team up with national bowls reps at Ballina

LIAM Hawkins played it cool on the greens.

But the smile beaming across his face when he finished bowling said it all.

He was one of four juniors chosen to play a social game with two Australian representatives at the Ballina RSL Club Bowling Club yesterday. "It was awesome," the 13-year-old said.

While the scorecard didn't go his way, Liam's pairs teammate, Australian Commonwealth Games player and 2014 Bowls Australia Male Bowler of the Year Brett Wilkie, was quick to take the blame.

WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY: Ballina RSL Bowling club junior Liam Hawkins and Glen Innes’ Haylee Ross were two of the four juniors who on September 30 got the opportunity to play a social game with Australian representative lawn bowlers Brett Wilkie (left) and Mark Casey at the Ballina RSL Bowling Club.
WHAT AN OPPORTUNITY: Ballina RSL Bowling club junior Liam Hawkins and Glen Innes’ Haylee Ross were two of the four juniors who on September 30 got the opportunity to play a social game with Australian representative lawn bowlers Brett Wilkie (left) and Mark Casey at the Ballina RSL Bowling Club. Graham Broadhead

Liam teamed up with Wilkie to take on Glen Innes' Haylee Ross and 2006 Commonwealth Games representative Mark Casey in the morning game.

In the afternoon, West Tamworth's Zoe Stewart and Inverell East's William Latter joined the Australian stars.

Liam is one of 21 junior bowlers from around the region - he plays with the Ballina RSL bowling club - taking part in this week's inaugural AeroBOWLS Canal Road Junior Tournament, which aims to encourage young bowlers.

Liam only started playing bowls in January after his dad, Glenn, took him along for a roll-up at the Ballina RSL bowling greens where Liam's pop, Lyle, plays.

That's exactly how Wilkie and Casey started in the game when they were in their teens growing up in Victoria in bowling families - Wilkie in Ballarat and Casey in Melbourne.

The pair are now based on the Gold Coast and happy to play at events that encourage young bowlers to get involved with the sport.

Both men acknowledged that there was still some perception that bowls was an older person's sport, but the average age of players nationally was going down.

"The national (bowls) team is younger than the national cricket team," Casey, 33, said.

Wilkie is the old man of the Aussie squad. He is 41.

Casey said Bowls Australia has introduced a new format of the game, which, using the cricket comparison, is the T20 of the sport, taking about an hour or so to play.

He said the aim of the format was to encourage competitions outside of work hours on weekdays in a bid to lure those who are on the cusp of being unable to play other sports. He also agreed the shorter form was likely to be more attractive to juniors.

They've already won over Liam Hawkins, who said bowls is "better than (computer) games".



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