Honours Board

Legend of Bowls North Harbour – Barbara Kunicich

Barbara Kunicich was the dominant bowler in the 1970s and 80s in the old Waitemata women’s centre, which joined forces with the North Shore men’s centre in the mid-1990s to form Bowls North Harbour.

Barbara was an accomplished skip, who was an inspiration to those who played with her, and a talented singles player. She started her bowls in Northland, but the bulk of her career was on the North Shore, as firstly a member of the Bayswater club, which is now part of Belmont Park, and in her final few seasons with the Takapuna women’s club which combined with its men’s counterpart in 2004.

She won in all 15 centre titles as well as four national titles, back to back in the singles in 1973-74, the pairs in 1978 with Lois Hunt and the fours in 1973 when she was lead to club-mates Lorna Donaldson, Iris McIntosh and Hunt. All of her national championships were with the Bayswater club. These feats won Barbara wider recognition including being acclaimed North Shore sportswoman of the year.

She also represented New Zealand at two world championships in 1981 and 1985. Unfortunately, at international level she didn’t repeat her domestic achievements. Both of the international teams in which she participated were full of star players but the New Zealanders, having been brought up on slick greens, couldn’t adapt to the painfully slow surfaces encountered in Melbourne and in Canada.

Barbara, with her supreme ability and pleasant personality, had a beneficial influence o a generation of fine North Harbour women’s bowlers, including a later national title-holder and multiple centre champion, Mary Guldbrandsen.

This was especially so when Guldbrandsen was in the early stages of her career at the Bayswater club.

She recalls Kunicich standing out among the leading women’s skips of the time. Whereas many of these could be extremely severe and occasionally brutal in handing their younger charges Kunicich was invariably calm and tolerant.

 “She took me under her wing and taught me so much,” Mary recalls. “She was always encouraging and was a very popular lady.”

Kunicich’s husband, Steve, was also an outstanding player, mainly with the Carlton club in Auckland.

She remained a staunch supporter of the game until the end, dying in 2012 aged 91.