Happy Father’s Day! Meet some of our bowling dads.
Happy Father’s Day! Like in other sports, dads can have an effect on their children’s sporting lives and in particular, bowls. Without entering into the old nature versus nurture debate, we thought we’d ask some questions that could shed some light on how to keep the love of lawn bowls continuing on through the generations.
Recently, we caught up for a chat with one bowling family who seem to have done just that. Some of our readers may already know, or have crossed paths with, the Hammond family from Roma. The Hammond name is almost synonymous with Roma Bowls Club, so let us introduce you to the three main players who shared their bowls family story with us.
John Hammond Snr is where it all began (he thinks from about 40 years ago). John wears many hats and he is ‘Dad’ to Robert, and ‘Pop’ to John Jnr. But John Snr has other roles too and, as the secretary/manager of Roma Bowls Club, he is a lynchpin member of the club and chances are you will find him there, whether it be in a club meeting, behind the bar or on the bowling green itself.
Robert Hammond is John Snr’s son and a father himself to John Jnr. In his bowling life, Robert has risen to the level of Roma’s first State representative and his love for the game is obvious.
John Hammond Jnr is Robert’s son and his enjoyment of bowls and his competitive spirit are fierce. John was selected to represent QLD in the U25 team in the QLD v NSW Test Series in August (2022).
To start the ‘bowl’ rolling, so to speak, we asked John Snr how he first took up the sport of lawn bowls. Did he start bowling on his own or was he introduced to it by his dad?
To John Snr’s knowledge, his dad never played bowls. Instead, he was introduced to the sport by a couple of work colleagues and tells us that he was “a member of the club for about six months before I even rolled a ball”.
When Robert asked his dad how he, as his son, became interested in bowls, John Snr’s response was:
“Well, I used to come over here to the club, you used to come over here, your mother used to come over here and your brother used to come over here and eat our Freddo Frogs and watch us playing bowls. And it was just a natural thing that you got into it as well as myself.”
Robert was then asked how he got his son John Jnr (Johnny) involved in bowls and it was a similar story.
“By that stage we had moved to Toowoomba and John’s mother used to bring him over to watch me play the premier league, playing for South Toowoomba Tigers at that stage. We used to get large crowds and John used to love turning up and getting his face painted as a tiger and running around the green cheering for the Tigers. One thing led to another, and he actually got to play his first real game before he played a normal game. He ended up representing the U18 Darling Downs because Horizon they were one short when playing a seniors’ game, so Johnny got to represent the U18 Downs when he was a six-year-old as a fill in. That was his first game of lawn bowls!”
We asked the trio what it meant to each of them to bowl with their dad/son/grandson. John Snr (Pop) said: “It means a great deal to me and makes me very proud to have bowled with them both. Representing Roma in the pennants with three generations of Hammonds was a proud moment. Also, to have been successful in many club and district division championships is a bonus.”
When asked if he currently had much opportunity to play with Robert & John Jnr, John Snr replied: “Nowadays, probably not as much as in the past, but there is still the future and I have been proud on every occasion that I have had the chance to play with either or both of them.”
When asked if he currently had much chance to play with his Dad and Pop, John Jnr replied: “Not so much at the moment as Dad is currently playing for Toowoomba. But Dad and I play every carnival together. No doubt, in the future we will go back to our old club triples team of me, Pop and Dad.”
John Jnr (Johnny) said, “It’s a great honour to bowl with the people who taught me the game and it’s been a pretty good journey learning from them both, even though I think I’ve topped them now! Playing with these guys and growing up and playing all my club championships with them, being taught the sport and how to grow up makes me quite chuffed.”
John Snr (aka ‘the old fella’) interjected at this point and said he “thinks the Hammonds are just getting better with each generation!” When it comes to the nitty gritty of discussing what they each hold as their highest bowling achievement and proudest moment, John Snr went first.
“Although I haven’t won a State Championship, I have contested a few. My proudest moment was seeing the three of us representing Roma and contesting the State Pennant Championships on two occasions. I am also proud of John Jnr representing QLD at almost 20 years younger than when his Pop first started bowls.” Robert and John Jnr then remind Pop of when he proved himself at the ‘Black Opal’. The Black Opal is a prestige tournament played in Lightning Ridge. Greg John, John Snr, Robert and Jimmy Keleher were equal winners in 2016. It was 20 all on 20 ends on the 20th anniversary and was washed out. In 2017, the team were equal winners again with a washout 4-way split. This was the biggest tournament win for John Snr against quality Australian players and he would have been player of the match.
About his proudest moment, John Jnr said: “My proudest moment would definitely be winning the Maranoa triples with Dad and Pop. Growing up with these guys and winning it when I was 14 was pretty good. My personal best achievement would be at State titles in the U18 triples; winning gold in the triples, silver in the singles and silver in the fours all in the same year. Also, running close to being the U18 singles champion.”
Robert said: “I think I am in a pretty lucky and unique situation where my Dad has shown me how to play bowls and shown me how good he was. When I first started playing bowls, they used to say Dad was the number 1 bowler (and they used to call him number 1 mongrel). He was the one to beat in the clubhouse and everyone strove to be as good as my father.
That was my goal, to be as good as my father and my coach, who was Brian Spinks. And then work took us away and Dad was still in Roma, so I got to teach my son how to play, raise a young fella and get him up and going. When we all moved back to Roma, we got to play together again. I couldn’t be any prouder about getting as good to beat my Dad. Then I had to teach my son how to do the same thing!”
Robert was also optimistic when asked if they still had the opportunity to all play together. “Not at the moment. We are all leading busy lives, with Dad still managing the club. But we have played plenty together in the club and we will play plenty together in the future.”
About his highest bowling achievement, Robert says: “It would have to be winning the State Pairs in about 2017. Close to that, is representing Queensland against NSW and also in the Australian Sides in Darwin.” Robert’s proudest moment was “the first time the three of us played together and won together in the triples, and also in a fours tournament, but the triples was pretty special”.
John Snr is proud that Robert and Johnny were selected to play for Queensland. “A lot of work and years of bowls go into that, and we are all pretty proud of them.” When asked what they would suggest dads at bowls clubs do to encourage their children to play bowls, it was a unanimous response. John Snr urged: “First of all, bring them to the bowls club! Get them started young. I think it just runs in the family from then on. Fathers get their sons to play, and their sons get their sons to play, and it just carries on from generation to generation. I think that’s the good way, probably one of the only ways, you will increase the membership for bowls in Queensland and in Australia, by getting families involved.” But they all agreed “Don’t force it on the kids to come and play”.
When asked if there was: anything else they thought Queensland Bowler readers would be interested to know about their family bowling journey, Robert replied: “We are lucky to have three of us: John Jnr, John Snr and myself, who have, or are about to, represent Queensland at the highest level. But we are also proud to represent Roma. We are proud of where we come from, and we are proud of who we represent.”
And there are more Hammonds now involved in the sport than just the two Johns and Robert. Young Jake and Samuel play in U15 and young Felicity is playing bowls now.
“There’s more of us to come and there will be more stories to write about because we have more children coming!”