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Waihi Beach Bowling Club president Neville Wiseman says it’s the people who have kept him interested in the club. Photo: SUPPLIED

‘Legend’ still walking the green at 92

It wasn’t the game that drew Neville Wiseman to the bowling green 26 years ago. 

It wasn’t the game that made him stay either – it was the people. 

Now, the 92-year-old has taken on the role of club president for the group he said had been like family. 

“I wouldn’t be playing bowls if it wasn’t for the members, it’s as easy as that,” he said of the club. 

“It’s a funny thing but over a long length of time all your other old friends aren’t with you any longer, but if you keep your eye open you’ll actually [find new ones].”

It’s Neville’s second stint as president, after a three-year run from 2007-2010. He’s always been there though, helping in the background, which has earned him the nickname “the legend”. 

“He’s such a gentleman. Never a bad word about anyone, very well-respected,” club member Lyn Brooks said. 

“He goes down there and mans the little shed. He’s always there, you never have to ask him. I don’t think anyone’s ever said a bad word about Neville.”

The Waihī resident was originally dragged along to the Waihī Beach Bowling Club by a cajoling neighbour to see what it was all about.

“I had a serious back injury. I’d been a truckie prior to that, 40 years, and I couldn’t drive any more. So we went to live at Waihī Beach while I was still recovering,” Neville said. 

“[The neighbour] would say, ‘When are you coming to play bowls, Neville?’ And I’d have to say, ‘When I get old’!”

At 92, the Waihi resident still plays tournaments and club days. Photo: SUPPLIED

Once there though, Neville found he wanted to stay. Besides helping to keep the place going, he’s enjoyed the game itself over the years and has even had a number of successes in tournaments. The most recent was 2021, when Neville and clubmates Devon Brooks and Terry Scelly took out the competition to be named the Thames Valley Champ of Champs in the triples event. 

“I haven’t stopped smiling yet,” Neville said. 

“I was fortunate that they asked me, otherwise I wouldn’t have been there. That was brave of them to ask me in the first place.”

His favourite event though is the pairs. 

“Pairs are great. You get your right partner and you have a fun day, win, lose or draw. More of one than the other usually,” he said. 

“But when you’re playing out of your own club, through the valley, you do meet some great people.”

“[It’s a] good sport for camaraderieship,” Lyn agreed. 

Neville said he plans to hold on to those friends he’s made. 

“I’m a life member so I’m there forever, they’re stuck with me!” Neville said. 

“I will go out there every day I can go out, until the time comes when I can’t. [But] now it’s all the club, really.”

By ALICE PARMINTER, Public Interest Journalism funded by NZ on Air