Our History of Playing the sport of Lawn Bowls

The report in the Booroondara Standard September 16, 1887 on the Club’s first Annual General Meeting indicates that serious intra-club competitions were held in its fust bowling season. The following prizes are listed as having been presented: Mr. Stuart’s prize to Mr. C .J. Balcer; Mr. Swan’s prize to Mr. Vincent; Mr. McFee’s prize to Mr. Hanson and the champion medal to A. Fritsch.
The only information discovered about Auburn’s second season of bowling is that contained in the Kew and Hawthorn Express March 9 1888, which revealed that Mr. C. Luff defeated Mr. H. Holzer for the President’s prize and that

the competition for the Club’s champion medal resulted in some good play. Mr. E.L. Ault and Cr. McFee (President) keeping in to the last, when after a well-contested game, the president proved victorious by nine points, the game standing at 31-22.

Thus the belief long-held that the Club Championship was not played for in 1886-87 and 1887-88 was not correct. In fact, Annual Reports reveal that there were only two years in which the Club Championship was not part of the bowling programme.

Paucity of members and consequent barrenness of the exchequer

was the explanation given in the Eighth Annual Report for the Comm­ittee’s decision “not to offer a Champion Medal this season” and in the following year there were no contests for prizes. The President and the three Vice Presidents were requested

to allow the amounts offered by them to be applied towards reducing the debt.

Their response was one of agreement and malcing additions to the sums that would have otherwise been used for prizes.
In 1887-88 Auburn joined the V.B.A., the twenty-third club to do so.

Nothing is known about the extent of its success in that year.
In its second year of participation in V.B.A. games, the Club played in twelve games, winning five of them. Thirty-one players participated in these games, and while there was some measure of satisfaction express­ed with the results, the Third Annual Report 1888 stressed 

the importance of more assiduous practice without which it will be impossible to attain any great success in the inter-club matches.

The report indicated that selecting teams for the games was no easy matter, especially in a young club where a great many players “are about equal in skill”. Consideration had been given by the selectors to placement “so as to please as far as is possible everyone concerned”, and an aim was “to give every member of the Club a fair opportunity of participating in the matches”. Winning had been considered of second­ary importance.
The Club’s bowling performance in the 1890’s began with a disastrous season in 1890-91. Only one win was recorded in the fifteen matches played. This unsatisfactory result was attributed to “the fact that we had scarcely any rink practice”.
The following year, according to the Annual Report presented on 8th September, “a system of Pennant Matches was inaugurated by the Bowling Association” and the Club was credited with seven wins in the thirteen matches played. This was to be the Club’s best year in the Pennant competition for that decade.
The first Pennant success for Auburn bowlers was to be the winning of their section in 1907-08, following a very pleasing performance in the previous season when, in a play-off for section honours, they were beat­en by M.C.C.

In his comments about Auburn in The Handbook of the Sixth Bowling Carnival 1927, John P. Munro wrote

Although of a good size, the Club has rarely been very prominent in the competition for Association blue-ribbon events.

At that time that statement could not be seriously challenged. However, as the following table shows, successes since 1927 have considerably improved Auburn’s bowling image.



1911 Champion of AustalasiaF.F. Robinson
1920-21V.B.A“C” Pennant 
1948-49V.B.A“B” Pennant 
  “C” Pennant 
1950-51R.V.B.APremiers, Division 1 
  Victorian Singles ChampionG. De V. Bosisto
 R.V.B.AAustralian Singles ChampionG. De V. Bosisto
 R.V.B.AChampion of ChampionsG. De V. Bosisto
 R.V.B.AVictorian Pairs ChampionsG. De V. Bosisto
   B. Cuff
1951-52R.V.B.AVictorian Singles ChampionG. De V. Bosisto
  Australian Singles ChampionG. De V. Bosisto
1952-53 Australian Singles ChampionG. De V. Bosisto
 R.V.B.AChampion Fours “C” GradeG. Jordan etc.
1969-70R.V.B.A.Premiers Reserve Grade 1 
1972-73R.V.B.A.Victoria “B” Grade Singles ChampionD. Charlton
 R.V.B.A.Premiers Division “4” 
1973-74R.V.B.A.Victorian Reserve Grade Singles ChampionD. Charlton
1976-77R.V.B.A.Victorian Reserve Pairs ChampionsJ. Anning
   L. Munro
1981-82R.V.B.A.Metropolitan Open Pairs ChampionsD. Charlton
   H. King
1983-84R.V.B.A.Premiers Division “4” 
1992-93R.V.B.A.Group 13 TriplesC. Lund
   R. Jones
   D. Charlton
1993-94R.V.B.A.Group 13 PairsC. Lund
   D. Charlton
1995-96R.V.B.A.Group 13 TriplesR.J. Hayes
   P.H. Green
   K. J. Kealy
 R.V.B.A.Group 13 A.F. Mixed PairsJ & B.A Briffa
2002-03R.V.B.A.Group 13 Premier FoursJ & B.A Briffa
   H.V. & M. Beaumont
2010-11B.V.Winners Division 4 Group 13 
  Winners Group 13 over 60’s PairsN.R. Waite
   D.H. Pisterman
  Winners State Over 60’s PairsN.R. Waite
   D.H. Pisterman
  Winner Group 13 SinglesN.R. Waite
  State Rep Singles Over 60’sN.R. Waite
  Winners Group 13 PairsBr. Gallagher
   N.R. Waite
  Runners Up State PairsBr. Gallagher
   N.R. Waite
2014-15B.V.Division 3 Runners Up 
2016-17B.V.Section Winners Division 2 Section 5 
  Yarra Region Champion of ChampionsBr. Gallagher

The number of sides participating in Pennant bowls for Auburn increas­ed to two in 1903-04, and remained so until the 1933-34 season. An in­crease at this time was to be expected as additional rinks had been dev­eloped and there was increased emphasis on willingness to bowl as a qualification for admission to membership of the Club. For some reas­on, not obvious, only two sides were entered in the competition in 1938-39 and this was the size of the Club’s representation until 1943- 44 and 1944-45 when three sides were entered.
The end of World War II saw an increase in the number of sides entered by Auburn in Pennant games. The rise continued until by 1959-60 there were six sides playing. Participation to this extent continued un­til 1977-78 when the decision to revert to an entry of five sides was taken.
In all of the first thirty seasons in these post-war years, save that of 1959-60, Auburn’s No. 1 Side was in the top division of the Pennant competition. Unfortunately, since 1975-76 only once has this been the case, in the season 1979-80.
With such increased involvement in compeition, it is not surprising that a more impressive record of achievements than that which existed at the time J.P. Munro wrote has been developed.
Augustus Fritsch was the first member of the Club to be selected to represent the V.B.A. This was in New Zealand in the 1889-90 season. The member’s selection was proudly acknowledged in the Fourth Ann­ual Report in which the following assertion was made 

The rink in which he played was the most successful of the Victor­ian team, a result which the captain states was largely due to the excellent play of the Auburn representative.

In the 1898-99 season H.G. Garnham was selected as one of the captains in the side selected to play in the intercolonial matches against New South Wales. The Annual Report for that year indicates that Garnham’s play was most highly commended and that his rink scored ninety-four points in the three games played, to the forty-seven points total achieved by their opponents.
Reports in later years also record with pride the selection of the undermentioned Auburn players to represent their State, but without comment about their performances:

Victorian Repersentives

1934-35W.P. Eadie
1947-48R. Scott, H.L. Holzer, W. Dwyer
1948-49A. McCay, W. Dwyer, R.L. de Jarlais
1949-50W.P. Eadie, R. L. de Jarlais, J. Daly, W. Dwyer
1950-51G. de V. Bosisto, J. Daly, W.P. Eadie
1951-52G. de V. Bosisto, J. Daly, W.P. Eadie, W. Dwyer, N. Hallet
1952-53G. de V. Bosisto, J. Daly, W. Dwyer
1956-57R.L. de Jarlais, A. Weston
1961-62A.C. Rowe
1962-63A.C. Rowe

Although V.B.A. Pennant games were introduced in the 1891-92 season, these were not the only games to which much importance was attached at this time. The Club was a regular but not successful participant in competitions for highly valued trophies, especially those provided by V.B.A. Presidents, Moss, Aitken and Wood during the nineties and the first decade of this century.
Friendly contests against neighbouring clubs have always been part of bowls at Auburn, many carrying no reward other than the enjoyment of competing against “good blokes”. This has been particularly true of the Wednesday afternoon games since 1945-46. Managers of these games, T. Sandford, G. Jordan, S. and H. Barker, L. de Jarlais and G. Alexander, and more recently J. Newcombe have taken great pains to ensure that participants in the Wednesday afternoon games experienced keen competition and good fellowship.
Inter-club games between Auburn and numerous country bowling clubs have taken place since the Club’s formation, the earliest recorded being games against Healesville in 1897. Clubs as far away as Albury have been visited for such games and return games either played in the same season or the following one.
Longest associations with country clubs for such games are those with Kyneton from 1924 to 1936, Wendouree from 1951-52 to 1971-72 and the continuous association with Trafalgar since 1973-74.
The installation of electric light on the green in 1912 led to the intro­duction of an Electric Light Tournament in 1913. Prize money for the tournament that year was: Winners Eight pounds; Runners-Up Four pounds; Third Prize Two pounds; Fourth Prize One Pound.
Success attended the efforts of the organizers and continued to do so, and it seems that this is why Auburn was chosen in Victoria’s Centen­ary Year 1934-35 for an electric light game organized especially for the Centenary Visitors. However, the end to the unbroken run of this event was to come when the decision was taken at a Special Meeting in October 1935 

that the Club forgo the tourney on account of the date allotted.

Another special tournament organized by Auburn early in this century was that of a Pairs Tournament inaugurated during the Easter Holidays 1905. Forty-three entries were received and the financial result of “this first attempt at running a tournament of this description” (Nineteenth Annual Report) was “a credit balance of £ 3 -8 -3.”
Approval to run this tournament was again received from the V.B.A. in 1906 and also in 1907. The results in this third year were disapp­ointing, the net financial gain to the Club being only ten shillings. The Committee at it’s meeting of 8th April 1907 resolved 

to make a strong recommendation to its successors for the discontinuance of the Easter Tournament.

There was an attempt to revive this event in 1909, but the receipts in that year exceeded expenditure by only five shillings.
The end of the Electric Light Tournament did not mean the end of electric light bowling at Auburn. Inter-club games, games against various social club bowlers, and games in which members and visitors from other clubs participate have found prominent place in the fix­ture books for many years. The system of lighting installed in 1912 was replaced in 1915 by what was considered a technically superior system. The last recorded change of the total system was that made in 1948- 49, indicating the importance of night games in the bowling calendar at that time.
However by 1959-60 concern was expressed about the fact that costs of night bowls were not being fully met with fifty-six players or less participating (Annual Report 1959-60). By 1973 attendances at night games had fallen sufficiently for the Committee to decide on 17th Dec­ember

that night games be mixed rinks and that these games be played as twilight games until daylight saving is over.

Since then, this has been the general pattern of night bowls at Auburn, variations occurring only when social club bowlers were entertained.
Beginning with the 1886-87 season, Championships and Handicaps open only to members of the Club were all single-handed events.
It was not until 1963-64 that approval was given for the introduction of the Baker Pairs Handicap. Pairs for this event are selected on the basis of a rating of all participants made by the handicappers and the use of these ratings to form pairs considered to be of about equal ability. Each year the trophy for the winning pair has been provided by the member who suggested that the event be instituted, Mr C. Baker.


In 1965-66, the Club Pairs Championship for the Vice-President’s Trophy was introduced in Lieu of a single-handed handicap event, and the “B” and “C” Championships were replaced by the Minor Champ­ionship.
Of course the most prestigious event is the Club Championship. An ex­amination of the Table of Club Chamapions below will reveal that twen­ty-two players have succeeded in winning this event more than once, and that T. Sandford won it eight times. 

Lady Bowling Members

The Twentieth Annual Report of the Committee which was presented on 3rd September 1906 contains the statement

Provision has been made for lady members and your Committee trust to see the fair sex well represented on the bowling green next season.

Prominence had been given in the Annual Report three years previously to

the attendance of ladies at the green on three or four occasions during the season

and to the interest they had displayed in the game. A recommendation was made to the incoming committee

to continue to encourage attendance of ladies at the green.


Apparently the interest of the fair sex was sustained. In the Annual Report August 1907, the Committee reported that

the ladies have joined freely and have met with no little success in their matches with other Ladies Clubs.

The Committee of Management was keen to ensure that a serious app­roach be made to bowling by the Lady Members. At the meeting of the Committee held on 19th December 1906 it was decided

that the Lady Members be requested to arrange for Championship and Lady President’s Trophy events as early as possible.

The Auburn Ladies Bowling Club -this title was given to this section of the members for identification purposes in competition -became one of the six clubs then in existence in Melbourne which formed the Victorian Ladies Bowling Association in 1907. The following year V.L.8.A. clubs played for their first pennant. Lady Members at Auburn at this time numbered eighteen. In 1909 they won the V.L.8.A. pennant for the first time but they had to wait until 1923 to be so succ­essful again. This was followed by top division premierships won in 1926, 1928, 1929, 1935, 1936, 1948, 1950, 1954, 1958 and 1959.
In addition B Pennant Premierships were won in 1944 and 1951, a C Pennant Premiership in 1945 and D2 and Dl Pennants in 1974 and 197 6 respectively.

This is a splendid record when one considers that it was not until 1933 that an extension of the membership list for ladies to thirty was author­ized, 1947 when a further extension to thirty-six was permitted and 1968 before the limit was raised to fifty.
By 1959 members of the Club had also won the Proportional Singles of Victoria six times, the State Pairs Championship five times, the State Fours Championship eight times, the Novice Pairs of Victoria twice, the State Mixed Pairs Championship three times and the State Mixed Rinks Championship on two occasions. Since then additions to this fine list of achievements have included one win in each of: State Singles, Metro­politan Championship, Proportional Singles of Victoria, and the Metropolitan State Pairs Championship.
The coveted trophy, The Helen Bridgeford Charity Shield was also won by fours from Auburn in seasons 1955-56 and 1983-84.
But the story of success on the part of members of the Auburn Ladies Bowling Club does not end here. 

Australian titles have been won by Mrs. E. McKibbin (pairs twice and fours once), Mrs. I. Scott (pairs twice, fours once), Mrs. Braham (pairs once), Mrs. J. Bibby (singles once) and Mrs. F. Collins (pairs once).
The outstanding record of Mrs. G. Holzer would be difficult to equal. Champion of the Club twenty-two times, State Singles Champion seven times and Champion of Champions once, and a participant in eleven of the Club’s thirteen top pennant wins; she was also President of the Auburn Ladies Bowling Club for two years and Secretary for seven years.

In the two years that Mrs. Holzer was President she was also Champion. Only three other ladies have won the Championship while they were President, Mrs. M. de Jarlais, Mrs. N. Jenkins, and Mrs. J. Bibby.
At the administrative level, few sporting bodies could boast of a member being elected to the position of Secretary for thirty-five consecutive years. Auburn Ladies Bowling Club can; the lady – Mrs. 0. Baker.
Mrs. J. Bibby, Champion of the Club eight times, Singles Champion of Australia 1959, was State President of V.LBA. 1959, succeeded Mrs. E. McKibbin who held the position of State Treasurer of that organization from 1946-1971. Mrs. Bibby still holds that office and in August 1982 was made a Life Member of the Association for her serv­ice to bowls in Victoria. It is fitting that Mrs. Bibby and Mrs. Baker should be holders of the offices of President and Secretary of the Auburn Ladies Bowling Club in the year in which the Club as a whole has so much to celebrate.
At the Annual Meeting of the Auburn Bowls Club in 1950 it was decided 

that the Ladies Bowling Club may appoint Honorary Life Members with the approval of the General Committee, in which case no subscription will be payable by such a member of the Club.

At the Annual Meeting of the Auburn Bowls Club, 20th July 1979, Mrs. 0. Baker, Mrs. J. Bibby and Mrs. M. Fothergill became the first Lady Members to be elected as Honorary Life Members of the Club.