Neville Faulkner
Neville presenting the Master Singles trophy to Doug Arrowsmith

March 26, 2010

"If I take out that bowl we will pick up five,"Neville Faulkner whispered to his third, not wanting the opposition skip to be privy to his intentions..

"I turned around to begin the trek to watch my opposite number put down his first bowl, when I heard a heavy "THUMP," and saw the kitty lying in the ditch alongside Bert Sharp's bowl," said Neville.

"On arrival at the mat Bert greeted me with: "Get a five out of that, you bastard!"

Neville Faulkner is one of many who marvel at the all round ability of the man who wasted no time on the mat, Bert Sharp. "Bert was the complete bowler," he said. "And one of the nicest blokes to boot."

Neville Faulkner was well placed to form an opinion.

A household name in Western Australian bowls for over a quarter of a century, with his regular Saturday "bowls talk" on ABC Radio, as well as weekly bowls columns in the Independent and Sunday Times, he is an accomplished exponent of the game in his own right, having won a Masters Singles in 1992(beating Steve Bocksette in the final), and teaming with Jimmy Gupanis for a Masters Pairs in 1987.

Reared at Mt Barker, his grandfather having built the Karribank Guest House in the Porongorups, Faulkner showed promise at tennis and badminton as a lad, captaining the local tennis club at the age of seventeen. A forward pocket player with South Mt Barker, he moved to Narrogin in 1962 and represented Imperials at football, while playing off a fourteen handicap at the golf club. On transferring to Perth with the Post Office, he played badminton at Wembley, and was a member of the state squad.

Working in the mail room and delivering fruit and vegetables as a second job, it was a fall while toting a bag of potatoes across Murray Street to the Durward Hotel(now Miss Maud's) that forced him to look for a less strenous sport. "My uncle was a member of Bedford, so I went there and joined the Scroungers," he said.

Faulkner's first set of bowls were Dunlop four and seven eighths. "I got them at Boans for ten dollars," he recalled. "They were made of vulcanised rubber and on a real hot day you'd end up with black hands."

At that time, Faulkner took his first steps to a career in media.

"I did a media course," he recalled. "Another hopeful on that course was the late Gary Meadows, who later became a TV star." While Gary headed East for fame and fortune, the young Faulkner went South. "I got a job with the Albany Advertiser as a proofreader. It was to lead to a twice weekly radio sports show on 6AL. On returning to Perth, we moved to Manning, where I joined the Manning Bowling Club."

"There were some characters there at the time," he laughed. "But Percy Gibbs was priceless. He said to me once : "Faulkner, you are the only bloke I know who couldn't reach the head if you were bowling downhill on ice with a tail wind." At Alexander Park one day, smack bang in the middle of a suburb full of the Jewish community, he thanked the club for their delicious ham sandwiches. There was also the occasion at Swan Bowling Club when his wife turned up midway through a carnival. "Why don't you live at the bowling club," she said, as mattresses and clothes flew over the fence."

A chance conversation with the late George Grljusich led to a spot for Neville talking bowls on ABC Radio each Saturday, followed by the Independent' s Neville Catchpole offering him a newspaper column. He later was in the unique situation of writing for both Sunday newspapers when employed by The Sunday Times, later leaving the Independent to be replaced by Laurie Slater. The Sunday Times job had a few perks, the main one being his years as tourleader of the newspapers' overseas bowls tours.

Neville in the TV box with George Grljusich
.Neville and George Grljusich

Faulkner particularly enjoyed his association with the ABC, and the people he worked with there, including the irrepressible Grljusich, Keith Slater, Dennis Cometti, Lyn McKenzie, and the late Geoff Christian. "They were great times, just being associated with those people," he said. "Live TV is always prone to problems," he added. "I used to do the commentary for the State Singles final. One year I was in the semi final against Sharp. I would have loved to make the final, and had organised for Frank Harrison to stand in for me on the TV coverage if I happened to get over Bert."

"I knew I had to try and slow the bugger down somehow, put him off his game, so I played my first bowl and walked the allowed ten metres up the green. As I walked slowly backwards, there was a whoosh! And Bert's bowl went past me. He went on to win the final."

Neville chuckles when telling the yarn about the Eion Cameron afternoon show. "I had a five minute bowls chat with Eion at five to five in the afternoon," he said. "It was at the time when Mike Zusman and Peter Sardelic were threatening to take the WABA to court over the changing of the numbers of ends in pennants. Cameron penned the phrase "blood on the green," and it stuck. Years later I found out that there were farmers on their headers and harvesters around the State looking forward to each evening's episode of "blood on the green."

Faulkner had subsequent stints at City Beach, where he was part of the club's promotion to first division red,and Victoria Park, where he was a member of the club's 1999 one red flag, before moving house to Forrestdale and joining Gosnells. The following few seasons were spent between Gosnells and Victoria Park, with a relocation to Mandurah seeing him line up at the Halls Head club this season.

A two time semi finalist in the State Singles, where he was beaten on both occasions by the eventual winner, Sharp and Gary Carberry, Faulkner has three times been in the semi finals of the State Triples and reached the semis of the fours twice, as well as being a State Squad member for five years in the mid eighties. He won three singles titles at Manning and one at City Beach.

Rosalie Faulkner is also a more than competitive bowler. Herself a former State Squad member, she partnered Vi Carlhausen when runner up in a State Pairs and was with Dorothy Evans and Jan Piercey when second in the State Triples. Son Gavin is making a name for himself on the bowling scene and is a very good player.

Neville has served on committees at both Manning and Victoria Park, and was club captain at the Park.

While there are no prizes for guessing that Bert Sharp holds pride of place as his favourite exponent of the game, Dennis and Branko Katuna Rich, Frank Perry and Frank Harrison are others to be singled out by Faulkner as great bowlers. But Neville hankers for the old days. "There used to be crowds watching the good players and personalities play the game," he reminisced. "When clubs like Osborne Park and Scarborough would clash or blokes like Col Lindsay took the green there would be plenty in attendance to have a look."

Chatting with Neville Faulkner, it's apparent that he is enjoying life away from the spotlight of the media, but his love of the game certainly hasn't diminished. At sixty six he has lost none of his skill and competitiveness, and, unless he and Rosalie are off to far away places, he is liable to be seen on a bowling green somewhere.

The mail man is still delivering.