ONCE upon a time he was a champion cowboy who then turned his hand to training thoroughbreds but these days his sporting life is much more sedate – lawn bowls is now the passion for Erle Stockdale.
On the weekend Stockdale was playing in the Central North District Bowling Association State Fours at his home Willow Tree Bowling Club.
His team of Paul Bowd, John Conlan and Keith Parker was knocked out in an extra end after drawing 19-all over 21 ends with Les Goodchild’s South Tamworth team on Saturday morning.
But that wasn’t the end of the day for Stockdale.
He’s also the Willow Tree president and, since December, the greenkeeper.
“John Conlan used to be (greenkeeper), used to ride his bike down from Quirindi,” he said.
“But he’s been a bit crook so I’ve taken over.”
That meant a 5.30am start Saturday to mow the greens.
And it means plenty of hours keeping the greens in good nick as well as keeping the hundreds of corellas off.
It’s a toss-up between the corellas, who can create massive damage by digging up the greens, or the human varmints who have trashed the club twice in the past 12 months or so.
“The first time they did $10,000 worth of damage and the second time they got in and trashed the poker machines. That was about $50,000 worth of damage,” Stockdale said.
“It does make it hard. Everything here is done on a volunteer basis.”
While there are about only 20 bowling members, there are about 150 members, including tennis players, of the club.
It’sa meeting place for the community, with many private functions and parties held there.
It did have two greens until a few years back but a decision to turn one green into two tennis courts has been a successful move.
That has been a bonus for the club although the damage inflicted by the corellas on the synthetic courts is evident.
It will cost the club about $3000 to fix the holes the birds have inflicted on the courts, Stockdale said.
He joined the club in 1997.
Before that he’d been a cowboy with plenty of breaks and bruises as well as training horses for a number of years.
A back injury and knee replacement made it too tough to continue as a horse trainer.
“I loved training and miss the horses a lot,” Stockdale said.
“One of my best mates is Geoff O’Brien (Quirindi trainer). I still slip up and see him from time to time,” he said.
However all the injuries and some kidney problems have caught up with him and made lawn bowls his main sporting outlet.
He’s not one to sit back either and became part of the hierarchy from day one.
He became vice president of the club in his first year and did that for 10 years before becoming president about four years ago.
“It’s a lot of work,” he said while organising the second round of games on Saturday’s State Fours program.
“Everything is volunteer here though – we rely on all our volunteers.
“I’m the greenkeeper and bowls secretary as well.”
The club also made a profit of $20,000 last year.
So they are going all right and have a busy few weeks coming up with a visit from Dora Creek.
Stockdale, who is also on the CNDBA board, said the club would host a major representative match as well.
“We’ve got the Upper Hunter versus Central North game here in a fortnight,” he said.
They played that at Murrurundi last year and we have it this year.
“Then we have our own Fours Carnival on the 17th (February).
“The prizemoney isn’t too bad, about $800.
“We have a triples on the Saturday and then the Fours on the Sunday.
“It’s part of the CNDBA Bowler of the Year as well.
“So it’s a pretty busy few weeks.”
Keeping the corellas off the green will keep Erle busy enough.