Kiama bowls team has oldest, youngest pennants players

Teamwork: 11-year-old Jacob Aitken and Norm Rowland, 98, play Grade 7 pennants for Kiama. Picture: Adam Rodgers

Teamwork: 11-year-old Jacob Aitken and Norm Rowland, 98, play Grade 7 pennants for Kiama. Picture: Adam Rodgers

Kiama Bowling Club can truly boast that bowls is for all ages with the oldest and youngest player in Illawarra pennants also teammates in the same rink.

Norm Rowland still loves the sport at age 98 and skips a rink for the club’s Grade 7 team with 11-year-old Jacob Aitken his lead.

The pair might have an age gap of 87 years but have developed a terrific bond as Norm quietly passes a half century in local bowls, while newcomer Jacob is halfway through his first year.

Jacob’s father Dean plays in Kiama’s Grade 1 side and with his son around the sport his whole life it’s no surprise Jacob is the youngest open pennant bowler in the men’s competition.

‘’I love bowls,’’ Jacob said.

‘’I like winning and it’s great to play with Norm. He takes time out to help me and makes bowls fun.’’

Jacob has taken a year off his other favourite sport, soccer to play lead for Kiama’s promising Grade 7 side.

And while Jacob is the youngest open pennant player in Zone 16, his rink general Norm has had 50 years enjoying the sport.

He would have passed 50 years with his beloved Shellharbour BC had it not folded a few years ago, which presented him the opportunity of joining Kiama BC and ultimately sharing a rink with Jacob in the Sevens.

‘’Jacob’s a lovely boy and I like spending my Saturdays with him,’’ Norm said.

‘’While I encourage him and help him, everyone in the team helps one another. We all love one another’s company.’’

Norm still finds time for play bowls twice a week and in his prime was runner-up in the Open Singles at Shellharbour, plus skipped the Fours to the club championship and had a win in the Shellharbour Open Pairs.

Norm and Jacob are enjoying a good season together with their Grade 7 team in top spot in Section 2 and a great chance of winning the Zone 16 flag.

Kiama are pushing for their first pennant title since 2002, while they were beaten in last year’s Grade 3 and 5 grand finals. 

Kiama have five Illawarra flags overall; with triumphs in Grade 4 in 1987 and 1996, plus victories in Grade 5 in 1981 and 1988 to go with the Grade 1 victory 16 years ago.

‘’It’s been a while between flags and we’d really like to win one this year,’’ Kiama bowls co-ordinator Adam Rodgers said. With more than 100 members, they recently adopted the moniker Kookaburras to follow most other Zone 16 clubs in having a colourful name alongside its club identity.

Co-hosting the State Grade 5 Pennant Finals in partnership with Warilla Bowls later this year, Kiama wants to be headquarters for the 2019-20 South Pacific Carnival to coincide with the finale of its 100th anniversary in 2019.

‘’We’re planning a big year to mark our 100th year and getting the South Pacific would be a great way to end the celebrations,’’ Rodgers said.