Seeing red on the green: Bowls players fight council’s netball court plan

Irate members of a lawn bowls club have resolved to fight council plans to convert its 70 year-old green into netball courts.

“It’s absolutely outrageous,” said East Ivanhoe Bowls Club president and greenkeeper Matt Perkins of Banyule Council’s proposal to raze the club’s rinks, in Ivanhoe Park, and turn them into the home courts of Ivanhoe Netball Club.

East Ivanhoe Bowls Club members are angry at plans to turn their green into netball courts.Credit:Scott McNaughton

Under the council’s Ivanhoe sports precinct plan, East Ivanhoe bowls would share its clubhouse with the netball club and other community groups.

But bowling would shift to Ivanhoe Bowls Club in John Street.

Stalwarts of East Ivanhoe bowls, which has 259 members, fear it will mean closure of their club.

More than 1000 people have signed online and handwritten petitions against the plan. “We’re not going anywhere,” Mr Perkins said.

He said the netball club should “go find somewhere else”, such as the two vacant tennis courts in Ivanhoe Park.

“You don’t come to another person’s home and stand out the front and say, ‘I’m going to take this place,’ ” Mr Perkins said.

Ivanhoe Netball Club president Dina Biviano said it was an emotional subject and she empathised with the bowlers, but her club’s more than 180 female players, with an extensive wait list, did not have equity in access to local sports facilities.

The netball club has run for 12 years without a home, instead playing as far afield as Templestowe and Mernda. Meetings are often held in members’ houses.

The club could be forced out of the venue it has called home for 70 years.Credit:Eliana Schoulal

Ms Biviano said the bowls club had had the “privilege” of 70 years’ use of the council-owned park site, and it didn’t have a right to it. The council wasn’t asking the bowls club to fold, just to move.

Mr Perkins said prospective members would not want to join a bowls club whose green was at a different site to its clubhouse.

Ms Biviano said a few years ago East Ivanhoe Bowls Club had sought, through the council, a merger with Ivanhoe Bowls Club.

Mr Perkins said that proposal was for both clubs to be based at East Ivanhoe.

Stalwarts of East Ivanhoe bowls, which has 259 members, fear the plan will mean closure of their club.Credit:Eliana Schoulal

In State Parliament earlier this month, upper house Eastern Metropolitan Region MP Matt Bach accused Banyule Council of running a “sham process” to “shut down” the bowls club.

Liberal MP Dr Bach called on Local Government Minister Shaun Leane to intervene. He said better netball infrastructure was needed, but it shouldn’t involve telling bowls players “to push off and find another club”.

East Ivanhoe bowls member of 18 years John Irvine, 83, of Greensborough, said he would probably give up the sport if the plan went ahead.

East Ivanhoe was friendlier than other clubs. “If you come in and have a beer, someone will always say, ‘Come and sit here.’ ”

Maree Fenech, 75, a member for 30 years and a 2019 national blind bowls champion, said the netball plan “absolutely stinks”.

“I’m disappointed that [the council] didn’t put more effort into coming up with a better solution.”

Banyule Council said declining East Ivanhoe Bowls Club membership was a factor in proposing it move games to the Ivanhoe club.

Netball was a growth sport and Ivanhoe Netball club needed a dedicated training venue in its area. The move would support young women’s participation in sport, while providing community access to facilities.

Consultation for the Ivanhoe sports precinct plan is open until July 17, with feedback to be considered by the council in August.

A final masterplan will be presented to the council by December. Further information is available at

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