Dennis ‘‘Dreamy’’ Smith and Keith Warburton starting rolling deliveries down the greens of Tatura and Hill Top almost half a century ago.
When Smith first began competitive bowling in 1969, the dress code was one of the most strictly enforced rules on the green.
‘‘We had to wear a coat and tie and take the coat off when we got there, but leave the tie on, that was the etiquette of the game — and gee, they were fussy, ’’ he said.
‘‘When I first started I had to wear braces, they said you’ve got to go down and get an outfit and I got my outfit and they said get some braces too; I’d never worn braces in my life.
‘‘I turfed them out pretty quick.’’
Freddo McMahon and Smith enjoyed social bowls after playing footy for Tatura on a Saturday, having a relaxed roll when sore on a Sunday.
Later on in the week Warburton, Smith and Ken Yates would all walk into Colliver’s Cafe, a Tatura institution, to pick up a milkshake.
But it came with conditions.
‘‘We played football on a Saturday and if we lost old Nimble Colliver wouldn’t give us a milkshake, ’’ Smith said.
‘‘We’d go in there on a Tuesday night and say would you give us a milkshake and he’d say, ‘no, you lost your football’.’’
But it was a different story when the Bulldogs claimed a victory on the weekend.
Smith loved playing under his good friend Warburton at Tatura and said the sporting prowess of the star forward, who played 74 games for Carlton, transferred across to bowls.
‘‘When he was bowling really well he used to swing his leg, he sort of danced on the green, he was brilliant, ’’ Smith said.
‘‘He used to swing it after the delivery because he was riding the shot, gee he was a good bowler.’’
Teaming up, the duo was formidable.
The pair was crowned Tatura pairs club champions and played in countless representative squads across the years, always looking out for each other.
‘‘He’d play harder (when I was off my game) and I’d do the same for him, ’’ Smith said.
‘‘If he was down I’d go a bit harder.
‘‘It’s the same as football, you put in a bit more and it’s exactly the same.’’
The Hill Top greens did not have the amenities of today, with lights not installed until the late ’70s.
If work ran into overtime and players wanted to head out on the green in the evening, desperate measures had to be taken — as Smith remembered fondly.
‘‘We never had lights in those days, it got dark and the last end I couldn’t see, we had to get up there and strike a match to see who had the shot at the last end, ’’ he said.
‘‘It was late and getting real dark, we couldn’t see the jack from our end, we had to get the matches out.’’
With the flicker of a match to decide who drew closest to the jack, an evening game could finally be decided.
Luckily Smith did not have to use his potent drive to secure the end or else spectators would have been on guard.
Smith’s drive had pace unlike any other, at times splitting jacks and even breaking a bowl.
Smith and Warburton competed in an era when Goulburn Valley bowlers played with and against some Australian representatives, including John Dobbie and John Snell.
The 1987 Victorian representative side to play NSW in Finley was made up of 12 players from the surrounding Goulburn Murray region.
Smith played third to skip Roy Rowan, another member of the Goulburn Valley Bowls Division Hall of Fame.
Warburton, Smith and Wally Sinclair are all members of Tatura’s illustrious bowls history spanning both clubs who have gone on to be honoured by the GVBD.
Now many of them have family members continuing the charge at Tatura, looking to create the next generation of elite bowlers.