Lawn bowls started out as a hobby for Kevin Clifton but a quick roll in Captains Flat turned into a 50-year association with the sport.
“1966, I had my first roll,” Clifton said.
”The postmaster...he said come down to the club and have a roll of bowls. So I went down, had a roll, joined up and been bowling ever since.”
While his bowls journey started south of Queanbeyan, it has continued in Tamworth for the past quarter of a century.
Clifton’s had a plethora of roles at the South Tamworth Bowling Club and at the regional level in that time.
He’s a past president at South Tamworth and the Central North District Bowling Association. He’s also a life member of both.
Clifton came to be in Tamworth after getting a job at South Tamworth Public School in the late 1980s.
Tamworth ticked all the boxes for Clifton in terms of a place to retire. A connection to the area also played a part in heading this way.
“My mum was born at Carroll, she was a Swain,” Clifton said.
“We used to come up this way for holidays when I was a kid so I’ve always had an affinity with this part of the world.
“When it came to pulling up stumps, I got a job at South Tamworth school and that’s where I retired from.
“Me and my wife came into this house 30 years ago.”
Clifton retired from teaching in 1990 before he “plunged right in” to the coaching side of bowls.
He did a coaching course in 1992 – along with an umpiring course which saw Clifton umpire for 20 years – and has continued to teach the game of bowls to this day.
“I’m an accredited club coach. I coach mainly individual bowlers as they need it or new bowlers starting,” Clifton said.
Clifton draws many comparisons from his teaching days to coaching.
While he did say there was one major difference: “With the bowls, very often you get one pupil, one teacher. You don’t get that sort of brilliant ratio [in schools],” Clifton said.
There was more similarities, though. And similarities Clifton loved.
Interaction with people – from the kids, the parents and fellow teachers – was one.
Others were being able to see a student develop and the variety the roles tossed up.
“Like teaching, each day will be different, each year will be different and each person’s different,” Clifton said.
“What suits one [student] won’t necessarily suit another.”
One-on-one coaching isn’t all Clifton does at the South Tamworth Bowling Club.
In recent times he’s taught Tamworth South Public School students the game while he also holds a group session each week which the 86-year-old always looks forward to.
“Every Tuesday morning I have Kirinari and Sunnyfield disability groups. That’s a lot of fun,” Clifton said.
“We get anything from half a dozen to a dozen bowlers with their carers. We have an hour of bowls and fun on the green then we go to the club and socialise.
“They’ll have a coke and someone will buy me a beer which is nice. Only ever one because I’m driving.”