Stepping into the Southport Bowls Club, something just feels wrong.
ABBA sings something about a 17-year-old dancing queen above the prattle of bowlers reliving ends won and lost by the kiss of the jack while the frothies flow freely.
But something is undeniably missing.
“We had pokies here about 14 or 15 years ago but there was a decision by the board of the day to remove them,” says club manager Glenn Stevenson (46).
“And the club has traded really well without them,” he says.
A bowlo’ without bells and whistles and jingly music and spinning wheels and people in trances.
“Not everyone’s a gambler,” Stevenson reasons.
“I’m not a gambler and a lot of our club members are like that as well.
“So [our point of difference is] at the functions we have here we’re not losing half the people to a pokies room or to a Keno screen.
“People interact and stay together and socialise, which is by far the most important thing.”
Stevenson says the club has proven that with enough will, the pokies tide can be turned back.
And he says the antidote is a simple recipe.
“We provide everyone with a smile when they come into the club and we’re friendly.
“We provide good meals and a few cold drinks and everyone’s happy.
“You see it on our barefoot bowls days too when dozens of novice bowlers, many of them young adults, come in for their first taste of the sport and have a great time,” Stevenson said
The Southport Bowls Club is the Gold Coast’s oldest, seeing its first roll up in 1914.
It’s a place right out of Crackerjack with the bowlers and their shiny plastic name tags, the bae Marie full of hot meat pies and roast pork rolls and the wines resting for not for long in those glasses from nanna’s house.
It boasts 240 bowling members, over 200 social members, and this week it’s the official venue for the 2022 Pan Pacific Masters Games lawn bowls tournament – the first since 2018 because of COVID postponements.
“We’ll welcome over 100 visiting players during the week who all look forward to catching up with the friends they’ve made at previous Games,” Stevenson said.
“Absolutely we noticed a financial dent last year and the year before when the event wasn’t held.
“It’s not just that week, but the week or two leading up to the Games as well.
“The Games deliver a great cash injection and people come back here because they’ve had a good time at the last one, so yes, we did notice it last year.
“Having the Games held annually each year [for a three-year trial until 2024] will help us enormously with our financial planning.
“These Games help our bottom line enormously, there’s no doubt at all about that,” he said.
It makes you think maybe it should be The Whitlams coming out of the ceiling speakers.
The lawn bowls tournament at the Southport Bowls Club continues until Sunday.