Happy retirement to Lesley!

by bqmedia on March 8, 2022

Lesley Bates pens her last column for the Queensland Bowler magazine and prepares for her retirement. Thank you for all your contributions to the magazine and to bowls in general, Lesley!

In September 2018, I was fortunate enough to become Bowls Australia’s Regional Bowls Manager for North Queensland. I had been doing a six-week house sit in Cairns and decided that I no longer wanted to live in a large city. I was alerted to the opportunity to relocate north whist I was engaged as New Farm Bowls Club’s secretary and within a month, I had the job. My keenness was so great, I paid my way to Townsville for a personal interview instead of doing it remotely. Everything fell into place and I have rented the same three-bedroom townhouse for $260 per week just a 10-minute walk into the heart of town.

I “hit the road” within a week. My first visit was to Proserpine where the new board was holding their initial meeting. Heather Brown, champion of Bowls Administration is club and district secretary as well as being the ladies’ club president. I learnt so much about governance, protocols and everyday challenges faced by small country clubs from her. Heather has been my sounding board on many occasions. I could add a very long list of other volunteers that are the backbone of our clubs and from whom I have gained extra knowledge and understanding of club world which has helped me perform my duties.

Attendance at district ladies’ and men’s delegates’ and AGM meetings has been fruitful as I have made valuable relationships and individual club meetings are always a source of information and ideas to pass onto other members.

Within the first 4 months of my appointment, the monsoon and floods hit Townsville so my relationship with the Sport and Recreation officers was invaluable in sourcing small grants and larger projects such a Magnetic Island and Ingham’s artificial surfaces renovation. I have solid and ongoing contact with Local, State and Federal politicians which is very important and I stress to them the need for extra resources to be directed to our sport and clubs.

During my tenure, I helped many clubs with grants and at this point $4 million (300 grants) have been given to my to my club. Highlights have been:

1. Three North versus South Tests (hopefully the venues will remain in the North)

2. Sports Expos in Rockhampton, Mackay, Airlie Beach, Townsville, Cairns and Mount Isa

3. Three successful bids for Bowls Australia annual awards:

  • 2021 – Bev Rush, Volunteer
  • 2019 – Gary Costigan, Volunteer
  • 2018 – Suburban Townsville, Club

4. National and State titles for multi-disability bowls championships at South Suburban Mackay

5. Marked increase in Primary Sporting Schools’ participation with Rookie Rollers

6. Increase in coach and umpire accreditations

7. More awareness of how to obtain grants

8. The opening of Queensland’s newest club, West Tigers in Mackay district

9. Supply of Rookie Roller kits to many clubs

10. Friendships made during my tenure

Having Townsville as the base for my 82 clubs allowed me to drive the distances required to service my six districts. North West and Leichhardt district visits requires a seven to 10 day absence from home. I would love for the creation, within the next year, of a fourth Regional Manager’s position to cover Central, Leichhardt, Port Curtis and Bundaberg, with a base near or south of Rockhampton. Our 16 RBM positions throughout Australia are supported financially through licensing of products, grants and other sports based funding.

I am thankful for the support of the Bowls Australia team who have a priority and commitment to keep the RBM program going. Brett Wilkie and his team from Bowls Queensland have also contributed to the successes of Wade, Micheal, our new member David and myself in assisting clubs.

I have been so fortunate to have been in a position where I have travelled, given clubs the tools to be better off financially, provided sound advice and had the addition of many friends to my life. Thanks to the many people who have embraced me as your RBM.

When I had my interview with Brett Wilkie, John Emerson and Deborah Bruce, Debs asked me, “Where do you see yourself in five years, Lesley?” My response was totally frank. It went something like this, “Retired, playing a lot of bowls and travelling around Australia”. So it was never a surprise that I would leave the position at my retirement age with my departure being at Easter.

As the longest serving female Regional Bowls Manager in Australia and for North Queensland, I trust my replacement will be given the same support and encouragement that I have experienced. The new appointee will take over my phone, so when you call 0429 213 207, they will be able to answer you by name if you are on my data base.

Cheers and great bowling! Lesley!