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Sport

27 August, 2021

A cracker of a club with a fresh approach

IT’S A sad fact, in country towns across Australia small community-based sports clubs are struggling. It was no different for Innisfail Bowls Club. Despite a beautiful location, a rich heritage, six years ago they were financially stretched and facing an uncertain future.

By Peter McCullagh

Photo HDEvolution

Today they are a buoyant beacon and social hub in the region. This resurgence and new-found energy has been led by their President, Alf Strano.

Traditionally a bowls club is viewed as the domain of the older Australian, it is not the sort of venue you would find young energetic backpackers enjoying a great night out.

Strano and his committee embarked on a bold strategy, to become the social hub for Innisfail and openly welcome the large and well cashed up backpacker community.

Innisfail with their rural base was a mecca for backpackers working rurally as they travelled Australia. Without many venues in Innisfail where they could feel at home and comfortable the Innisfail Bowls Club soon became their home away from home.

Themed nights, karaoke, fancy dress, beer-pong and community activities quickly became the norm at the bowls club, changing and rejuvenating this regional club.

COVID may have slowed the club down, but it remains the social hub for locals as well as the reduced number of backpackers in the region.

Whilst they faced their financial demons a few years ago, the Innisfail Bowls Club has been under threat for the past 60 years. Erosion from the constant floods and the menace of the Johnstone River threatened to take the club away. Perhaps they were now more than one more flood away from collapsing totally into the river.

The club had been petitioning to all levels of government seeking funds to stabilise the bank underpinning the club and protecting this critical social hub for the future.

Works have been completed with over $1.2 million spent stabilising the bank, with the official opening of the redevelopment last Friday.

The redevelopment included the installation of new greens for the approximately 70 members to enjoy.

The next project on the drawing board for the Innisfail Bowls Club will be the quest for funding to install a roof over the greens. Due to the weather extremes you can experience in Innisfail, it can either be too wet or too hot outside for bowls, the all-weather roof will change the dynamics for the better.

Wanting to broaden their base further, the Club wants to get schools involved and introduce the new generation to the membership. The roof will further strengthen of offering; however, it will require support once more form all levels of government. Once installed the club’s offering will be strong allowing all year-round hosting of zone, regional and state events.


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