From bowler to ironman

March 03, 2018

Keeping busy: Shepparton Park coach Mark Ryan is currently leading his side into a finals campaign, while also training for an Ironman.

Ready for a new challenge: This photo was taken when Mark Ryan was appointed Shepparton Park coach in 2013, as he steps down after five years in charge.

Mark Ryan is one of the most highly regarded bowlers across the Goulburn Valley Bowls Division.

The star skip can single-handedly turn a match in his side’s favour, but the Shepparton Park coach will be stepping down from his role at the end of the season.

With the Parkers in the finals, Ryan will be hopeful his tenure extends for another three weeks.

But he is no stranger to the ultimate success, having brought the Parkers back-to-back premierships in the 2013-14 season, following up in 2014-15.

‘‘The goal was to make the grand final because they’d never made the grand final (as the merged Shepparton Park),’’ Ryan said.

‘‘They had made the finals but hadn’t made the grand final so our goal was to make the grand final, then to win the first one and the second one, it was fantastic,’’ he said.

‘‘This is my fifth year and we’ve played in three grand finals in the last four, who knows what this year will bring?’’

Ryan has spent a decade coaching teams across the region, being a co-coach at Shepparton Golf alongside ace Matt Robinson, as well as spending three years at Mooroopna, before settling at Shepparton Park where he has spent the past five seasons.

Just one year in the past 11 has been spent without being the head of a club, allowing him to travel and play at high level at Essendon Bowls Club.

Individually, his greatest achievement was making it into the semi-final of the Australian Open in 2009 when it was held in Shepparton.

‘‘ I made it (the semi-final) again in 2012 down in Darebin but the ‘09 one was the most enjoyable when I was in my second year as co-coach with Robbo,’’ Ryan said.

‘‘It was good for the club and the town, there was a big crowd and good support.’’

Taking the lead seems to come naturally to Ryan, who is assistant coach at Picola United while shouldering the load in the ruck.

But he said taking up bowls as a teenager helped him learn valuable lessons about how to relate to different members of the community.

‘‘It was just an odd chance (that I started playing bowls), a friend and I were playing with school and my grandma played so I wanted to have a go,’’ he said.

‘‘It was a good thing for my teenage years, just hanging around with older guys was great mentoring and I learnt a lot about life and values and how to treat people.

‘‘I thought that was the biggest plus out of the game was learning to communicate with the elderly and people of all ages.’’

While the orange bowls could still make an appearance around Goulburn Valley greens as Ryan looks set to continue to play, there are plenty of other endeavours which will take up much of his time.

Ryan runs his own boot camps in the morning and has recently started as a personal trainer at Aquamoves.

He has a demanding fitness regime of his own, training up to 12 hours a week in preparation for an ironman which is little more then 10 weeks away.

With an knock out semi-final against East Shepparton today, Ryan’s teammates will be hoping to give their coach the ultimate send-off.

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