Before moving on to the many positive things that I have to report for the 2013/14 year I would like to take the opportunity to express my sadness at the passing away of a number of Club members, in particular our Secretary/Bowls Secretary Ray Fullarton. Due to Ray’s death there will be no reports from the offices he holds this year. I will do my best to cover the areas he would normally report on.
Having noted the sad news I mentioned above the Club has had much to celebrate in the last year. We have had more success on the greens, made a number of important changes around the Club, and put in place several innovations designed to ensure the future of the Club remains strong and vibrant. Such a large amount of work obviously requires a large number of people to have achieved it and so great thanks are due not only to the Committee, many of whom have served the Club for a number of years, but also to the many new volunteers who have made contributions this year.
In last year’s report I wrote about the Winter Pennant and noted how good it was that we had grown to having 4 teams in the competition and to be taking on the big metropolitan clubs in Division 1. Little could we have anticipated the spectacular Grand Final Victory that saw Flem-Ken become the top winter pennant club in Melbourne, a result that we are backing up well having been so far unbeaten in that Division this year. This, along with the consistently strong results we have seen in Divisions 2, 4 and 5 mean that we can now rightly claim to be the leading Winter Pennant Club in Melbourne.
This past year we stepped up to Division 2 night bowls which meant fielding a larger side and taking on much bigger clubs. Bowlers dealt well with the new challenge and it’s an enormous credit to them that we were able to make the finals despite not being able to play a single game on our greens due to the lack of lights. Like Winter Pennant, Night Pennant has provided an excellent opportunity for new bowlers to play with some of our more experienced members and the skills they acquired underpinned the great results we had in the lower divisions of Saturday Pennant. Thanks in particular to Noel, Mark, Peter and Ray who did all of the work that enabled us to enjoy our time under lights and on sunny winter days!
The great run of success that the Club has been enjoying in summer Saturday Pennant continued this year, culminating in a great Sectional Win for the third side who almost went all the way to winning the whole of Metropolitan Division 8. The list of players who represented the Club in that side is again reflective of the strengths of the Club as a whole, containing as it does brand new bowlers, members who had returned to the Club after some years away, and some of our most experienced bowlers. In that regard I would like to pay particular thanks to Roy Gerbing for the knowledge and wisdom through his work as team manager and skip in that side. It was wonderful to see the busloads of members and friends who went out to support this side in their finals campaign. It is a real hallmark of what our Club is about and is a credit to all who attended.
The top and second sides should also be proud of the seasons they enjoyed, the second side consolidating their position in Division 5 following promotion the previous year, and the top side once again making the finals and almost wining through for promotion to Division 1.
There were a number of important milestone games played this year but I would particularly like to congratulate Norm Booth who played his 400th game for the Club, and Les Delaney who played his 700th. The loyalty that both of these members have shown to the Club is wonderful and an example to the rest of us.
A big thanks to everyone who represented the Club in competition this year, and to the Selectors who volunteer countless hours to the Club not only during the week but especially on Saturday mornings as they adjust sides and deal with withdrawals and cancellations.
Internal Club Championships / Champion of Champions
I’d like to congratulate the winners of the many Club Championships that we hosted this year, but perhaps more importantly thank all those who chose to participate, many for the first time. While we hear reports that at some clubs these events are fading away it was great to see such a high level of interest in the Club Triples, Fours and the returning Mixed Pairs Competition. Similarly it was great to see a number of bowlers flying the colours for Flem-Ken in metropolitan events and champion of Champions competitions. As ever thank you to the great crowds who turned out to support our bowlers.
Thursday Community Bowls / Butchers’ Bowls / Community Cup
It was pleasing to again see the greens often full on Thursday nights when we open up the Club to the local community to bowl for free. Like many clubs we are still trying new ways to encourage people to take the next step on to bowling in Pennant. [Congratulations to those who made the jump this year!] Wednesday Butchers’ Bowls has been one pathway for this to happen and I hope that someone will carry on Ray’s good work in organising this competition.
One of the real achievements of the year was the commencement of our Community Cup competition. The many hours of work that Daisy put in to making this happen were invaluable to the Club as they brought a new group of people to club who got to experience the excitement of an organised competition while still enjoying the fun and relaxed atmosphere for which Flem-Ken is rightly known. I’m sure that this will be an initiative that the Club will continue into the future.
While I know long discussions of club finances are not something that excites all members it remains fundamentally important to our ongoing success and it is always appropriate for us to acknowledge the work of our long-serving treasurer, Ross Durham. The Committee is now putting more time and effort into working through a forward budgeting process which allowed the Club to once again set aside $20,000 for the future replacement of the green, or to allow for any contingencies which may arise. For many years we were in a position where any major failure of equipment would have left the club unable to pay its bills. Happily that time is now behind us, and should we wish to borrow money in the future we also now have an established record of savings.
Perhaps most importantly we have in recent weeks been able to employ Janet as both our weekend bar manager and club promotions person. Hopefully over the next year we will see a diversification of the kinds of events that we hold at the Club which would allow us to provide even more value to our members.
As mentioned above the prudent financial management that has been the hallmark of recent years has allowed us to invest heavily in the infrastructure of the Club. While this has seen improvements to the snooker room and the hall, most obviously it has seen the complete renovation of the Racecourse Road end of the greens with over $40,000 spent on that project alone. Again, great credit should be given to a number of volunteers who made that work possible: Mark and Trent Russell, Colin Symes, Bob Keeley and Peter Clifford.
Unfortunately during the year the Committee has had to consider a number of disciplinary matters, some of them serious. I make no apology for the fact that there has been a renewed focus on ensuring that the Club provides a safe and welcoming environment for all members and guests even when this has resulted in some serious sanctions against those that have broken the rules. The Committee never takes these decisions lightly, and I would ask that members who agree with this direction support Committee members who are often put in a difficult position when asked to sit in judgement on their friends and teammates.
Relationship with Council
It is also unfortunate that I have to report that it has been a difficult year in our negotiations with the City of Melbourne. While our relationships with individual councillors and some council officers remains good there has too often been a lack of consultation from Council about decisions that severely affect the vitality and viability of the Club. The heavy restrictions now placed on our liquor licence, the removal of some 40 car parks and other aspects of the recent landscaping works affect how the Club is able to present itself to the community and all too often this has not been properly taken into account by those making the decisions at a local government level.
Alongside the forward budgeting process has been the initiation of a process of setting clear and challenging goals for the Club on an annual basis which can then be used to guide the work the Committee does. While we have not managed to achieve all of these goals this year I think that this has been a valuable process and one that is well worth maintaining. In last year’s President’s Report I wrote that the resolution of the Club’s “redline” area in which we are permitted to serve alcohol must be our number one priority. I’m very pleased to say that due to the incredibly hard work of a number of members, most notably the Vice-President Mark Russell, that a nearly three-year process has been brought to an end and that after 122 years Club members are now able to take their drinks outside when watching or playing bowls!
We achieved our ambitious goal of bowling membership growth of 10% but fell a little short of a similar goal for social membership growth. This might be reflective of a more forensic approach to the maintenance of our membership database this year. We were not able to field full sides for every week of the summer pennant season, which resulted in some heavy fines for the Club. That said, we came closer to doing so than we had come in some time.
As noted earlier in this report the goals of introducing a Community Cup and of increasing bar turnover by 10% were both met. There remains work to be done on formalising the relationships we have with some of our sponsors and ensuring that we give them value for the generous support that they offer to our Club. If last year’s priority was the finalisation of the “redline” then this year’s must surely be the lighting of the greens. This will probably take more than a year to complete but it is clearly the next stage of the revitalisation of the Club and would do much to improve the amenity of the Club for both members and guests alike. I look forward to being able to report progress on this front next year.
In conclusion I would like to say a very genuine thanks for the support of members and in particular the committee over what has been at times a very difficult and trying year but one in which we have enjoyed some great successes as well. To the many volunteers who have helped out around the Club, some who we rely heavily on year in year out, and some who are new to the Club but who have taken on tasks with great enthusiasm I also say a very heartfelt thank you.
More than ever I think that the Club can look forward to the future with energy and optimism, confident that our success both on and off the greens will continue to grow.