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It’s coming home to Hilda Ross!

Written by Maryvonne Gray
on May 24, 2024

The Hilda Ross bowlers are the champions of the 2024 Ryman Roll Up!

The victorious foursome, skip Neil Clarke, Chris Bryant, Frances Bryant and Sue Lonsdale, proved they know how to stay calm under pressure after a thrilling two day semi-final and final event held at Ryman Healthcare’s Murray Halberg village in Lynfield, Auckland.

The Hamilton team’s path to victory saw them beat visiting Australians Deborah Cheetham in the semi-finals 16-6 before facing Havelock North’s James Wattie team the following day.


The final started as a slow and steady point-build which then gathered so much pace they didn’t need to play the final 15th end.

Two members of the team won gold in the Olympics@Ryman bowls event three years ago, but it is the first time Hilda Ross has won the intervillage bowls tournament since two consecutive wins in 2016-2017 and 2015-2016.

In recognition of their achievement, New Zealand bowls legend Jean Ashby presented them with their medals and impressive trophy.

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Bowls legend Jean Ashby presents Hilda Ross's tournament newbie Sue Lonsdale with her gold medal (above) while teammate Frances Bryant and Ryman Healthcare's Liz Dilger look on, and the four teams who made the semi-finals (below) from left Charles Upham, Hilda Ross, Deborah Cheetham and James Wattie. Top pic from left, Sue Lonsdale, skip Neil Clarke, Frances Bryant and Chris Bryant.

IMG_0894 (1) (Large)Now 90, Jean was awarded the NZ Order of Merit for services to bowls having played since 1967 and umpired since 1976.

“I know I’ve had a wonderful time at bowls and being invited to this is just the icing on the cake,” she said.

“I can’t tell you what it means to me to see people out on the greens enjoying bowls and welcoming others to enjoy it too and you’ll find new friendships being made which is a fabulous thing.

“Well done to all of you, and congratulations.”

Neil said the team had had a wonderful time: “We’ve really enjoyed everything about the tournament, the hospitality of the village here, the organisation and the team spirit, thank you all very much.”

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Hilda Ross during their semi-final against Deborah Cheetham (above) and their impressive cheer crew who came along from Hamilton in support (below).

IMG_0662 (Large)Ryman Healthcare’s General Manager - NZ, Liz Dilger, said having 48 villages across New Zealand and Victoria in Australia lent itself perfectly to some intervillage bowls play.

"A big congratulations to the Hilda Ross team for their incredible win," she said.

"This is the first time Ryman has held a trans-Tasman intervillage bowls tournament open to all our villages and I would like to extend a huge thank you to all of our bowlers, all the dedicated supporters and of course to our fantastic village teams who have ensured the tournament was a success."

There were 29 villages that took part, with play-offs within the villages whittling down which four players would represent in the regional finals. These took place in Auckland, Wellington, Christchurch and Burwood East in Melbourne in April.

The four villages that came through from the regionals were Hilda Ross, James Wattie, Deborah Cheetham and Christchurch’s Charles Upham.

The Australians, who hail from Ocean Grove on the Bellarine Peninsula, played for the bronze medal against Charles Upham in what turned out to be a nailbiting finish which came down to the very last bowl.

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James Wattie's Jan Henderson celebrates a success before their defeat to Hilda Ross (above) and the team, from left Jan Henderson, John Henderson, Lois Stewart and skip Bruce Stewart after winning the regional finals at Bob Scott Retirement Village in Wellington (below).

1256_Ryman_Bowls_0357 (Large)By the penultimate end the Deborah Cheetham team was trailing 15-19 to the Rangiora crew but a premature handshake proffered by Charles Upham’s skip could be what fired up the karma queen.

Sure enough, Faye Richardson’s final bowl took the jack to the back of the green where six Aussie bowls were sitting waiting, giving them the bronze by 21-19.

It was later confirmed by Umpire Esther Eu that James Wattie actually had seven bowls near the jack.

Special mention was given to three players who had played their first bowls tournament – Hilda Ross’s Sue Lonsdale, James Wattie’s John Henderson and Deborah Cheetham’s Geoff Chandler.

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Bronze medal winners Deborah Cheetham, from left: Brendan Carroll, Margaret Carroll, skip Faye Richardson and tournament newbie Geoff Chandler.

Liz Dilger said: “To have never played in a tournament before is just remarkable, you should all be proud of yourselves. It just goes to show it is never too late to try something new!”

Fellow James Wattie player Lois Stewart said: “John doesn’t even play bowls but he played the best out of all of us!”

Said Geoff: “I’ve played sport all my life, but I didn’t think at this stage I would learn a new sport.”

And Sue added: “It was quite nerve-wracking but I’m just glad I didn’t let the team down!”

About Ryman Healthcare:

Ryman was founded in 1984 and has become one of New Zealand’s largest listed companies. The company owns and operates 45 retirement villages in New Zealand and Australia which are home to more than 13,900 residents and the company employs 6,800 team members.

Media advisory: For further information, photos, interviews or comment please contact Group Corporate Affairs Manager Silke Marsh on +64 27 294 3609 or Communications Advisor Maryvonne Gray on 027 552 0767.

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