Image: Bruce Aley, President, Mairangi Bay Bowling Club
Mairangi Bay is in good shape financially, competitively and socially with a satisfactory mixed membership although, like all other clubs, it struggles to attract new players.
The club has two grass greens and a carpet which is scheduled to be replaced by early next year at a cost of more than $200,000 while long-serving president Bruce Aley says there are no better quality maniatoto surfaces on the shore due to their manicuring by greenkeeper Hamish Russell – the current Bowls North Harbour Greenkeeper of the Year.
“Competitively, we win our share of North Harbour competitions,” Bruce says, “and socially – well, we are very friendly.”
Formed in 1948 as a men’s bowling club, Mairangi Bay did not accept women members for almost 60 years – but the ladies were not to be scorned and in the mid-60s established their own less than 200m along Ramsgate Tce from the male enclave.
Bruce says the women did well with their own clubhouse, green, tournaments and executive until player numbers everywhere began to drop and Bowls NZ let it be known that the sport’s governing body was keen for men’s and women’s clubs to amalgamate.
“Falling memberships were spreading throughout New Zealand and men and women getting together was an obvious way to stabilise the problem,” he said. “Mairangi Bay was reformed in 2005 with around 160 men and 60 women. We now have about 155 although, like everyone else, we have a problem to get new members.”
“And the combined club has operated very well – the atmosphere is more congenial, everyone pitches in and we have our own mixed tournaments.”
The club has also introduced half-day mufti tournaments and they seem to address the issue of bowls becoming too time-consuming and contributing to the general decrease in membership. Bowlers need not wear whites but instead don regular leisure outfits befitting the atmosphere of a relaxed and social get-together.
“We are very active in business house bowls with 20 teams of four players each for six weeks each side of Christmas,” Bruce says. “Most are in their forties and play for the challenge of the game and the great fun of it then, hopefully, they will join the club when their families are off their hands.
“Mairangi Bay is a popular venue for corporates’ regular team-building events which include a game, meal and a few drinks while a variety of community functions are held here – we have had the Warriors and North Harbour Rugby teams playing bowls and the local chess club uses our rooms for its monthly meetings.” President Aley will again be elected – unopposed – to the top job for his ninth term in the past 11 years – at the club’s AGM on Saturday this week.
He joined the Murray’s Bay Sailing Club in the eighties, mainly for his children who raced and sailed with him in Optimists and P-Class boats for 10 years during which he was Club Commodore for three before he left as a life-member and retired in 2002, ending 35 years in the insurance business and almost immediately joined Mairangi Bay Bowling CLub.
“I had been working for all those years with umpteen friends but when I retired there were no working mates around so I joined the bowling club for companionship,” Bruce says. “I have enjoyed every minute of it but could not have done it without the support of all members.”
And will he do it again next year? – “I will if the members will let me stand,” he laughs.