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Petersham Bowling Club, the ‘inner west icon’ that punted pokies and defeated developers, turns 125

“Bowling golf equipment are a favorite for builders as a result of they’re normally f—ed and on the best way out,” then board member Paul Wade informed the Herald on the time. “Nobody bowls right here any extra as a result of they’re all lifeless. The place is empty most days.”

“We had to survive on our wits,” says Catsi. “We had to do things that actually brought customers in.”

“We needed to survive on our wits,” says Catsi. “We needed to do issues that truly introduced prospects in.”Credit score:Wolter Peeters

When that concept was additionally defeated, the board members who pitched it resigned en masse, and a brand new board was elected, together with Catsi as president. He’s now on his second stint after a break.

The brand new board consisted of enthusiastic locals who had by no means bowled earlier than and had minimal hospitality expertise; Catsi as soon as labored at a bar in London.

“We had a lawyer, a panorama architect, a instructor – we had been a motley bunch,” he says. “We had our first board assembly and went ‘Geez, what have we completed? What will we do?’”

Considered one of their first acts was to modify off the poker machines on the wall and promote their licences. This was a controversial transfer on the time, particularly amongst bowling golf equipment, however today loads of Sydney venues have forgone pokies – particularly within the interior west.

The membership was “loud and proud” about ditching the machines, and it labored. “We noticed a bounce within the enterprise the place individuals had been coming from out of space,” Catsi says. “They had been telling us, ‘We’re coming to you as a result of we need to go to a membership with no poker machines’.”

Anthony Albanese, the native federal MP, launched an announcement in 2016 marking 10 years because the membership went pokies-free. The now prime minister stated the PBC’s birthday was a chance to have fun each the venue and the individuals who find it irresistible.

“The Petersham Bowlo is an interior west icon. It has lasted for 125 years as a result of it’s sustained by passionate volunteers, members and supporters,” he informed the Herald.

“It was locals who fought to maintain the membership in neighborhood palms the place it has thrived. It’s greater than only a great spot to get a beer: it’s the place native bands get found and a hub of Petersham neighborhood life.”

Bowls NSW spokesman Billy Johnson stated there have been now about 470 registered bowling golf equipment in NSW – down from about 850 a long time in the past – with 45,000 members. He stated golf equipment had been trying to modernise the sport and diversify their income streams after a tumultuous few years of COVID, floods and poor climate.

“We’ve had a decline in membership however we’ve been pleasantly shocked with how golf equipment have recovered post-COVID,” Johnson stated.

Country Week bowling at the Petersham Bowling Club on January 18, 1972.

Nation Week bowling on the Petersham Bowling Membership on January 18, 1972.Credit score:Stuart MacGladrie / SMH


Some golf equipment equivalent to The Greens in North Sydney – which is blessed with gorgeous harbour views – have reinvented themselves with the occasions. Others opted for the trail Petersham rejected – for instance the 130-year-old Waverley Bowling Membership, which is because of reopen subsequent yr after being redeveloped by Mirvac together with 55 luxurious residences for older individuals.

Balmain Bowling Membership, the state’s oldest, says it is going to reopen in October, having been closed for greater than a yr. It amalgamated with St Johns Park Bowling Membership in 2020, however an announcement on the membership’s web site warns it “continues to expertise substantial monetary losses”.

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