The winds of change are blowing strongly for lawn bowls in Victoria, with overhauls of the current governance systems of the divisions and regions expected by the start of the 2021-22 season.
For the Central Goulburn Murray Bowls Region — comprised of the Goulburn Valley, Murray and Central bowls divisions — this will mostly involve a streamlining of the governance processes.
But with boundary changes also in the works it will spell the end for the Central Division and have its clubs dispersed throughout a number of competitions.
Whether that happens ahead of the upcoming 2020-21 season — or by the following campaign — is yet to be decided, but the change would bring Seymour and Seymour VRI permanently into the GVBD and Alexandra, Yea and Eildon would be likely to follow.
Broadford, Kilmore and Wallan would be expected to head to the Central Highlands Bowls Division, with the latter also exploring metropolitan options.
“We've got to have a Central Goulburn Murray meeting and then hear responses from the Central clubs,” CGMBR president Alan Rogers said.
“But that is a bit hard to do at the moment.
“Seymour already has sides in the Goulburn Valley division and have wanted to come across for a while now.
“Nothing is concrete yet and because of the virus it might be hard to push it through, but if it's not done by next season it will be by 2021-22.”
That timeline comes from Bowls Victoria itself, with divisions themselves to become ‘'Playing Areas” run by their respective regions.
In essence this will change nothing for the GVBD and MBD pennant seasons.
“Bowlers themselves won't see much of a difference at all,” Rogers said.
“And in terms of players or clubs in the GV worried about more travel to somewhere like Eildon, it would only be once a year and it would not be too much further than their current longest away trip anyway.”
The Campaspe Valley Bowls Division — including Moama, City of Echuca, Tongala, Kyabram Valley View, Rochester and Deniliquin — will also have a change at the top, joining a yet-to-be-named region alongside Bendigo Bowls Division and potentially the Goldfields Bowls Division.
This could in turn allow for a premier division-style competition to be formed between the top sides in each division, but again is unlikely to affect the majority of bowlers and their pennant seasons.
The crux of the issue for Bowls Victoria is lessening the burden on volunteers and pooling the resources that are available to better service each region's clubs.
A sub-committee of chair Ian Guymer, Pat Schram and Barb Gilbert have been working face-to-face (before the Covid-19 pandemic took hold) and online to improve the structure of the sport in the state.
“The current structure has been in place for 10 years, so it's best practice to review it,” Guymer said.
“We know we can't play during the current circumstances, so it's a real opportunity to improve the administration of our sport.
“Some regions already have a best-practice setup, and for others we're making subtle improvements in response to declining numbers of volunteers and trying to limit the duplication of governance which will improve clarity for our members.”
With BV president Gilbert having grown up at Tatura — and the Victorian Open hosted in the region every year — the Goulburn Valley and its surrounds, as well as other regional centres, have been a key focus in proceedings.
“We are an incredibly strong sport regionally,” Gilbert said.
“We want to make sure that continues well into the future. To do that, we know that the numbers of volunteers are decreasing through grandparents often working longer or caring for grandchildren, so we need our governance models to adapt accordingly.”
Regions will be able to define playing areas however they wish, giving more flexibility to all involved.
“This will enable each region to choose the number of playing areas that suits them best,” Schram said.
“That's important for the average bowler who will essentially not see any change in who or where they play.”
Regions have all been briefed on the changes and are now working through when they can implement the improvements in their area, either for the 2020-21 or 2021-22 season.