Father-and-son duo promote lawn bowls as an inclusive sport for all

Matthew and John Trewhella at the indoor Mandurah Bowling & Recreation Club.
Matthew and John Trewhella at the indoor Mandurah Bowling & Recreation Club.

A father-and-son duo are hoping to change the stereotype around lawn bowls being incorrectly labeled as a 'retirees only' sport.

After playing the sport for almost 30 years, John and Matthew Trewhella have seen lawn bowls evolve from an 'invitation only' sport where players don an all white uniform, to an inclusive game that encourages players from all walks of life to be involved.

Lawn bowls is usually played on a bowling green and consists of players rolling a bowl as close as possible to a smaller bowl, commonly called a 'jack'.

John said it was finishing a game of ten pin bowling in 1994 with Matthew and his other son, Daniel, that initially sparked the idea for the boys to get involved with lawn bowls.

"Matthew was 14 at the time and Daniel was 10. They used to get up early every Saturday morning and watch lawn bowls on TV and then all of a sudden they wanted to play," John said.

Matthew and John with their custom, Henselite XG Vapour bowls. Matthew's features a stencil of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons and John's features a scorpion.

Matthew and John with their custom, Henselite XG Vapour bowls. Matthew's features a stencil of the Tasmanian Devil from Looney Toons and John's features a scorpion.

As a newcomer to the sport himself, John said he assumed the Gosnells Bowling Club, which was their closest club at the time, would not take his boys on.

"I'd heard so much about bowls being a retirees or older persons game so we were a bit concerned. But the club was unbelievable and absolutely fantastic."

With a number of titles and wins under their belts, John and Matthew now call the Murray Districts Bowling League in Mandurah their home.

John said it was important for people to know that lawn bowls was also a suitable game for players with disabilities, as his son Matthew plays despite having cerebral palsy and an intellectual disability.

"In lawn bowls, Matthew's disability is definitely an ability. He has a weak, right side but bowls left handed. He's quite incredible and people here just absolutely love him for who he is. He's often nicknamed 'the package' because he's got all the shots," John laughed.

So many good things come out of lawn bowls. It's an extremely skillful game and I think a great alternative to other sports. It's just wonderful.

John Trewhella

"Lawn bowls completely changed him and it's really done a lot for him and his disability without a doubt. I think him playing against what we call the 'normal' people with no disabilities was a greater challenge for him and it changed him. He absolutely loves it."

"It's grown him to understand 'normal' people and how they accept him."

Despite a younger demographic now becoming involved with lawn bowls, John said there were still a few players who questioned why younger people would get involved with the sport.

"There's still people who look at the younger players getting into the game and say they should be playing cricket or football or tennis. They ask, why are you getting into lawn bowls at your age?"

"I just say look at my sons and what they've done in the sport from a young age. The game definitely has changed over the last 10 to 12 years with innovations such as changing the uniform but more people should definitely get into it."

See more:

John and Matthew will next play at the Australian Masters Games in Mandurah in October.

The first time the event will be in Mandurah, John will play in the over 60s division while Matthew will compete in the over 35s.

John said their sponsor, Henselite, helped supply necessary equipment such as bowls, bags and shoes.

John said their sponsor, Henselite, helped supply necessary equipment such as bowls, bags and shoes.

John said the event was wonderful for Mandurah as it would be an opportunity to showcase the city as well and promote the sport to locals.

"It will be a great showcase for the sport. I'd just like to see more people come along and give it a try."

"So many good things come out of lawn bowls. It's an extremely skillful game and I think a great alternative to other sports. The visual effect of the game, how people play it, the different shots you can play in the game and in different positions. There's also this phenomenal comradery. It's just a wonderful sport."