Rebel bowlers have broken ranks with their leadership, declaring they were gagged and threatened after publicly condemning the cancellation of Batemans Bay’s 42-year-old winter carnival.
An already acrimonious atmosphere has turned ugly, with a member of a breakaway group of ClubCatalina Sports and Leisure Club bowlers saying he was told their club “would close within the week” if there was more “negative publicity”.
However, committee spokesman Greg Wale says a minority “splinter group” was not helping the embattled club’s campaign to remain open.
Meanwhile, ClubCatalina president Kim Odgers has denied a report that he warned the club could close this week if the rebels continue to speak publicly.
Bowler Brian Vickers claimed an official contacted him this week after his comments regarding the winter carnival were published in Friday’s Bay Post/Moruya Examiner.
“He informed me...that if any further stuff went into the newspaper, the club would be closed down within a week and there would be no pennants, no bowls, nothing,” Mr Vickers said.
“I told him I would not be subject to blackmail, that I thought it was wrong. There is freedom of speech here and it was not just me, there were several members, and we are entitled to put in what we think is correct.
“He said we had to think of the club and our pennant season.
"I did feel threatened. I love my pennants and my bowls, but the last thing you can do is be threatened out of something, that is not the Australian way. This is my opinion, not anyone else’s.”
However, Mr Vickers said he had since contacted a dozen members and only one had urged caution.
“The rest agreed, go ahead, don’t be threatened,” he said.
Mr Wale issued a statement on Monday, but would not comment further.
“I’m aware that a splinter group of the men’s bowling club has made, and intends to make further statements to your newspaper, regarding the Catalina Country Club and its handling of this venue,” he said.
“This sort of thing is not helpful to our cause and does not represent the views of the bowls management committee, which has the sanction of both the Men’s and Women’s Bowling Committees.
“The bowlers in general are supportive of the ClubCatalina board’s decisions and wish to distance themselves from this splinter group.
“We understand the position that ClubCatalina has taken and, although the restricted hours at the bowling club are not acceptable to some, the majority accept the
“At least we have bowls in Batemans Bay and look forward to the coming Pennant season. Bowls management has worked hard to gain the reprieve given by president Kim Odgers in December and will continue to support the board in maintaining the game of bowls at the Sports and Leisure Club for as long as possible.”
Mr Odgers, elected ClubCatalina president in December, denied suggestions the bowling venue would close this week.
“I know nothing about that,” he said yesterday. “That is the first time I have heard that. I have never said that, I have never thought that. I would have no wish to say that and I certainly have no authority to say that.”
Mr Odgers said he had “two comments only”.
“One is to repeat that ClubCatalina is all about trying to do what we can to preserve the sport of bowls in Batemans Bay and the facilities that are being used under very difficult circumstances,” he said. “I really don’t want to respond to criticisms that are being made by a small group of bowlers who do not represent the views of the general bowling membership or the committee that represents them or the board of ClubCatalina.”