Grudge Match

By Madison White and Kate Grant

The Tweed Heads Bowls Club is a place where communities of people have been gathering for decades. The club was founded in 1921 and after changing locations numerous times it finally settled in its current location, central to the Tweed area, in 1975. Its bowling facilities are world renowned and beautifully maintained. The club is positioned perfectly for its patrons, meters from the Queensland and New South Wales border, a detail that is always cause for dispute.

The Commemorative Shield bowls match is held annually and brings together two long time rival teams from opposite sides of the Queensland/ New South Wales border; the Tweed Heads Bowls Club and the Coolangatta Bowls Club. The two clubs were originally just one, but when the team got too big they decided to split them; the Queenslanders became the Coolangatta club and the members from New South Wales became the Tweed Heads club. The two teams have been dueling for the commemorative trophy for decades, and the competition is on going.

Vince Leather

Vince Leather

Vince Leather is a lifetime member of the Tweed Heads Bowls Club and has been playing for the team for more than 30 years. He moved to the Tweed area from Bundaberg, a small town in Queensland, in 1989. Vince said he always knew he wanted to retire to the Tweed area after having visited the city in 1987 when the Pacific Games was on, a bowls match between numerous teams from throughout the Pacific.

“When I came down here to join the bowls club, they wouldn’t allow it those days because they had that many members and I wasn’t on the electoral role, so I had to wait until I was on that for a start,” said Vince.

Vince 3He joined the Coolangatta team for some time and then one night over drinks, according to Vince, he finally convinced the president of the men’s club to get him into the Tweed Heads Bowls team.

Vince said that it was the amazing people at the Tweed Heads Bowls club that truly drew him to it, and the friendly nature with which he is always greeted by the staff and patrons.

“The thing about bowls is, not only do you get exercise, it’s the comradery, you think about it, every time we come in here, there’s at least 80 people that we all know,” said Vince.

Vince 2One of the patrons Vince was seated with before the Commemorative Match concurred with his description of the friendly people and undeniable team spirit at the Tweed Heads Bowls Club. He commented on how he and his wife had no intention of moving from their hometown in Victoria, but upon visiting Tweed Heads and meeting the people in the bowls club, they decided to make the move to northern New South Wales.

According to Vince and his friends, most of their lives revolve around the game, they play multiple times each week, and even if they do go away, they always circle back to the bowls club and are welcomed with open arms.

“I don’t know if bowls isn’t a religion – I think it could be,” said Vince.