Dave Henneker

October 28, 2009

When policeman Dave Henneker was transferred to Geraldton in 1973, pride of place in the luggage were his golf sticks. Much to his disappointment, though, the greens at his new club were sand, not the green grass he was used to at Seaview, where he was on a seven handicap..............

So he checked out the Geraldton Bowling Club, where he ran into “Twinkle” Starr, who wasted no time in taking him under his wing and teaching the rudiments of the game. “Twinkle was a great coach for a new bowler,” Dave recalled. “He not only nurtured the new blokes, he played with them wherever he could find a game. In that first year the he skippered us three newbies to a club fours championship win, followed by the Northern League fours. He taught us a lot, and was a hard taskmaster”

Henneker bought his first set of bowls from Keith Slater for “about a hundred dollars, which included the inscription of olympic rings”

Dave followed his initial success with a couple more club fours, and winning a club singles trophy. His form was rewarded with selection in the Northern League side every year from it's inception to 1981, as well as being a member of the Country side four times between 1975 and 81. “I well recall my first game for the Country against Metropolitan, leading against a great bowler in Arthur Hall, from Manning,” he said.

Dave Henneker was also a pennant tennis player in his younger years, representing Fremantle in the WA Tennis Association A Grade competition, and played for Western Australia in the Catholic Interstate Tennis Carnival. But it was his boxing administration prowess that gave him the most satisfaction. Secretary of the Western Australian Boxing Association from 1964 to 1972, Henneker was appointed as manager of the Australian boxing team for the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

“There was a lot of politics in boxing at the Games, similar I suspect to other sports, and some dodgy decisions had the potential to lead to explosive situations. And Olympic boxing events have had their share of controversial judging. One such incident was the fight involving a Korean fighter. This bloke was a street ahead of his opponent in my eyes. As a matter of fact, he was so far in front they should have stopped the fight. On the completion of the final round, the referee made the announcement: “And the winner is...the red corner!” Well, the Korean, who was in the blue corner, couldn't believe it. For that matter , nor could anyone else, including the bloke in the red corner.”

The Korean exploded, dropping the referee, then dishing out similar treatment to the seconds, who rushed the ring. The other boxer wasn't hanging around, he departed as soon as the ref went down.

The Korean ended up copping life disqualification.”

“We were also the recipents of a bad call,” he went on. “We had a bloke called Athol McQueen, from Kyogle in Queensland. He was “robbed” in a first round bout with Joe Frazier, who at that stage was fighting as a pumped up light heavyweight in the heavyweight division. Athol followed his instructions of not getting into a punchup with the American perfectly, actually putting Frazier on the canvas twice in the first two rounds, but a lapse with half a minute to go saw him get a punch to the jaw, which caused him to go onto one knee, waiting for the count to get to eight before getting up.”

But the count didn't come. Obviously unsighted, which is a cardinal sin for a referee, he didn't see the punch, and surmised that McQueen had collapsed. He informed the judges that, as the Australian was unable to continue, he was awarding the fight to Frazier.” Shades of Tony Madigan in Rome, when he lost to Cassius Clay.

Frazier ended up with the Gold Medal, despite the handicap of a broken hand in the final, received in his semi final bout.

Dave Henneker returned to Perth from Geraldton in 1981 and joined his good mate Doug Arrowsmith at the Subiaco club, where he began a close friendship with Harry Sidgwick. With Sidgwick he was successful in the Subiaco club pairs, were runners up twice in the Masters Pairs, as well as being beaten in a State Pairs final, by Sportsmen's Club's Don Brown and Barry Rayner. In 1984, he was third for Arrowsmith, with Alf Cole leading, and Barry Gulliver playing second, when winning the State Fours. “Gulliver was a talented bowler,” he commented. “He was a bit rough around the edges for the bowls heirachy in WA at that time. I said to him one day: “If you want to get ahead in this game you would be better off in another State. He moved to South Australia, where he has won numerous events, became a regular in the State side, and won a Bowler of the Year.”

“Harry and Doug were different types of bowlers,” Henneker said. “While Doug was a methodical, classical bowler, who was a brilliant man to learn from, Harry attacked at every opportunity. We were playing one day at City Beach, when Harry let rip on each of the first three ends,and getting the required results. Our second wasn't too pleased about it, and Harry picked up on it. “What's his problem?” he asked me as we changed over. On hearing the reason he remarked: “We might drop a few ones, but we'll be picking up threes or fours on the way.”

“We were playing against Sardy one day in pennants. The aggregate was tight, and we were holding shot with their second very close to the jack, while we had the three backest. “Keep it to yourself, but I'm going to have a go at picking up the three by hitting the white,” he said out of the corner of his mouth as we crossed. Sardy put another one in the head, and, with us still holding shot, Harry shaped to drive. “What the %&#@ is he doing?” asked the second. “No idea,” was my reply. Sure enough, the kitty went back and we picked up an aggregate- winning three. In his typical dry sense of humour, Peter Sardelic said:”Why does this have to happen to me?”

With the unfortunate demise of the Subiaco Bowling Club, decisions had to be made by some very good bowlers as to their future. “A few of us, including Doug and Harry, almost went to Floreat Park, but we weren't enamoured with the first impressions. Informed that we would have to start in the lower divisions was fair enough I guess, but the welcome mat was hardly out for us, or that was how it seemed, so Harry and myself played at Osborne Park the following season, before persuasion from Gus Glendinning saw us move to City Beach, while Doug went to Hollywood,”Dave said. Ironically, City Beach has combined with Floreat in recent years to become Cambridge.

Dave's wife, Doris, never played the game, but he reckons bowls did wonders for her knitting. “She would come and watch the games and bring the knitting,”he said. “She actually became a keen observer of the game, and wasn't backward in coming forward with some sound advice during a match.”

A member of a South Fremantle Football Club sub- committee in 1955 and 56, he is a keen football follower, being both a West Coast Eagles Noteholder and a Fremantle Dockers Harbourmaster. He admits he can't get to the games any more. “Those damn stairs are too steep,” he laughed.

Severe leg problems caused Henneker's retirement from the game ten years ago.
“I've had two knee replacements in recent years, and could probably give it another go,” he told us. “But at eighty one, I'm getting on a bit now to get back into the game, and besides, I lent my bowls to a bloke in the bush and haven't got em back yet,” he joked.

The loss of Dave Henneker on the Western Australian bowls scene a decade ago was a sad one. The game is the poorer for the absence of him on the green, and there would be many older bowlers who miss his presence and those Olympic ringed bowls travelling unerringly to the jack.