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Deaf Lawn Bowls a drawcard

Ryman supports international competition

Ryman Deaf Bowls Jan19 1

From left, Dennis Herrick, Philippa Johnston and Tony Gorringe enjoy the day.

Many Ryman Healthcare residents would appreciate the exceptional quality of lawn bowls being played down the greens at Burnside in Christchurch this week and note a quiet undercurrent to the competition.

The 8th International Deaf Lawn Bowls Championships are underway at the Burnside Bowling Club.

There is a near silent backdrop to the tournament involving six countries including New Zealand.

International Deaf Bowls Federation president Dennis Herrick is in attendance and says most of the communication that takes place during competition is visual or of course via New Zealand sign language.

Onlookers and participants are signing rather than shouting encouragement to those competing.

The tournament is sponsored by Ryman, which is fitting given that most Ryman villages have a bowling green as a community centrepiece.

Cantabrian Dennis Herrick has got a satisfied smile on his face, while watching the play.

He has spent a lot of time organising the latest international bowls tournament, held every four years for those with hearing impairments.

He says fundraising and sending flurries of emails have been a core part of that work.

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From left, Dennis Herrick, Philippa Johnston and Tony Gorringe.

Burnside Bowling Club president Philippa Johnston says some of the larger mainstream international bowls events previously hosted by the club have sometimes been more rowdy affairs with the men in particularly liking to verbalise while they play.

However, the deaf bowls championships with both male and female contestants have a different edge. Rather than clap they raise their arms and wiggle their fingers to applaud.

Dennis says Ryman came to the party amongst other sponsors allowing the organisers to break even financially on the event. Hosting costs have skyrocketed so the outside sponsorship money is much appreciated, he says.

Dennis, of West Melton says he has been busy but happy since he learned New Zealand won the bid for 2019 at the previous event in Belfast.

Encounters on the greens have led to lasting friendships amongst the players, their friends and supporters.

“We are a deaf family,” Dennis says.

Of course, there is some international rivalry. Scotland is a leading country in terms of performance over the years and other teams are keen to knock the Scots over.

There are high calibre lawn bowlers walking the greens. They range in age from mid-30s through 80 plus. “We – Deaf Bowls New Zealand – have a high standard.

Because most of the players tend to play for hearing clubs, mainstream bowling clubs throughout New Zealand,” Dennis says.

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International bowlers compete at Burnside Bowling Club in Christchurch.

The countries competing include Australia, Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland and Wales, and there can be slight differences in sign languages established by each country.

Dennis and Australian-based International Deaf Bowls Federation secretary Tony Gorringe say those differences are quickly ironed out as signing is such a visual language.

​​​​There is plenty of good humour and fun times to be had Dennis says.

The players and supporters gather around in the clubrooms to socialise at the end of the day.

There are nearly 100 involved in the event and the players have been on the greens from 9am to 4.30pm each day.

Each country’s team has seven women and seven men.

The players compete in singles, pairs, triples and fours categories.

The championship play finishes on Sunday January 13 with a farewell dinner on Monday.

Some of the story was compiled with the kind help of sign language interpreter Marlene Beale.

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