January 11, 2010
Reg Payne grew up in the small country town of Mingenew. His father Mick had returned from the war and taken up a war service farming property in 1949 and he and wife Leah and their two sons Les and Reg farmed the property until 1965.
Times were tough but small Australian farming towns had a great community spirit. Local sporting clubs were usually the centre of activities and Mingenew was no exception. The Payne’s were heavily involved with Mingenew sport and this was the grounding for Reg’s lifelong involvement with, and love of, sport.
Payne first made his mark playing tennis, learning to play on the bitumen courts of Mingenew which would get so hot in summer that they would bubble and form blisters.
Like so many families in that era there was no spare money for luxuries like tennis shoes, so you just played on regardless. In fact, Reg remembers bursting the bubbles with his toes – well you had to amuse yourself somehow in Mingenew!
In 1948, he went to Perth to have a crack at the State Age Championships,which were held on the luxurious grass courts of Royal Kings Park. In a remarkable performance from a scrawny boy from the bush with one racquet, no shoes and no lessons he actually won the State Under Fifteen title – and didn’t drop a single set during the event!
The following year he was runner-up in the under 16 event to Goldfields star Les Grafton who was then selected to play in the prestigious Linton Cup interstate series.
Reg’s great sporting love was football. Mingenew initially competed in the Irwin District Association, where he won the Club and Association fairest and best medal as an 18 year old. However, farming commitments and a desire to try golf saw him curtail his football activities for a few years.
He was runner-up in the golf Singles Championship in his first year and then won it three years in a row, soon reaching a handicap of five.
One year he was in the match play final of the golf singles Championship and the footy club were in a final the same day. Reg thought he could finish the golf early and cruise over to the footy but his opponent had other ideas. They battled on to the 36th hole where he sank a ten footer to win one up. He left his club's greenside and raced to the nearby oval, where the Mingenew boys were stalling - the opposition were out on the ground and the umpires had been into the Mingenew rooms trying to get them out – a few dodgy excuses gave them some breathing space and finally Mingenew – with Reg fully rigged for footy – came out to play.
Mingenew went on to win the final – Payne kicked six goals and the town celebrated heavily for a week – as they tend to do in country towns when the locals win a footy final.
At the age of twenty six Reg decided there was plenty of time later in life for golf so he returned to footy and in his first year back won his second Association Medal.
The Irwin Association was disbanded around 1960 and Mingenew joined the stronger North Midlands League. Winning the League Medal in 1962, Payne also captained the combined side on a number of occasions.
In 1964, the North Midlands Association expanded to include three more teams from surrounding towns Morowa and Perenjori. In that first year Mingenew won a thrilling Grand Final – 4 goals behind and kicking against a strong wind in the last quarter they somehow fought back and won.
Reg again won the Club and League fairest and best medals that year.
Mick was instrumental in establishing a bowling Club in Mingenew. Despite farm, footy, golf and tennis commitments Reg and Les joined Mick and Leah on the greens.
Reg won the Club Singles in his first year at age twenty seven despite not having played pennants. Amazingly he also won the Great Northern League singles. He didn’t play the next year but tried again in 1964 and again won both the Club and League singles titles.
In 1965 Mick sold the farm and all three Payne families moved to Perth. Mick, Reg and Les all soon established themselves as Red players. Mick skippered for Bedford and had the distinction in one season of being undefeated – he had one draw and seventeen wins!
An interesting aside about the Payne clan is that they have three generations of bowlers who have skippered at First Red Level. Mick did so for Bedford, Reg has skippered for Bayswater, South Perth, and Kalamunda, while Les skippered for South Perth and Osborne Park. Reg’s son Neil has skippered at Victoria Park and Kalamunda, while Les’s son Ian plays as third for Osborne Park and Reg’s youngest son Glenn played as a third for Kalamunda.
I can only think of three other families who have had three generations of red bowlers – the Slavich’s, Guelfi’s and Rainoldi’s – but am not sure that even they have had three generations of First Red skippers.
Reg finally settled into bowling at the then powerful South Perth Club – which won four consecutive red pennants in the sixties. During his stay at South Perth he played in four State finals and was runner up in the State pairs with Sid Oates.
In 1971 he and partners Noel Crosbie and Tom Moir won the State triples and the following year were runners up. Also in 1971, in a remarkable State fours final, his team, skippered by State skipper Tom Sharp, led sixteen to nil yet somehow surrendered that lead and lost the final - brother Les was in the opposing side.
Payne could be considered unlucky not to have represented W.A. or at least made the State squad. In the space of 18 months he was in four state finals – winning the triples – and was also in the last eight of the State singles.
Selection policies or trends were seemingly opposite to how they are now. The man was thirty eight and State selectors couldn’t possibly pick someone that young – how times have changed!
Quitting bowls for two years in the Seventies, he played tennis at the powerful Bayswater Tennis Club, before the bowls bug bit again, so he sidled next door to Bayswater Bowls Club who at that stage were a relatively strong First Red Club. Reg won the singles title there
Again the golf itch struck and he joined the outer suburban sand green course at Pickering Brook, quickly returning to single figure golf and taking the club championship four times.
Eldest son Gary got to a two handicap while Neil got to five and both boys won the singles championship three times. However, mother Pat got the better of the Payne males by being the only one to have a hole in one. Reg also had a bit of a dabble at Bowls at Pickering Brook and won the Club Singles there.
In 1982, Payne leased the Wickepin Hotel, and naturally played bowls whilst there. Joining the Wickepin Bowling Club, who, led by Keith Doncon and Colin Fleay, were a powerful force in the Upper Great Southern League, he was there for 3 years and was a member of two pennant winning sides.
Second son Neil intended to play football at Wickepin but wrecked his knee at his first training run. Grandfather Mick, who had passed away in that year, had bequeathed his left-handed Dunlops to his grandson Neil - not thinking they would ever be used. So Reg went to Narrogin, bought Neil a pair of brown bowls shoes, dusted off Mick’s Dunlops and Neil had his first game in the Club pairs. Somehow, they reached the final where Colin Fleay and Norm White beat them in a close game.
All winners and runner-ups were eligible for the League playoffs and Payne, in a master feat of skippering managed to take his novice son to victory.
Back to the family home at Pickering Brook in 1984 Reg joined Kalamunda, who had just been promoted to First Red for the first time, and played the season in the Red side. The following year he opted to play in the Clubs next division (three purple) to play with Neil who had not played bowls since leaving Wickepin. Kalamunda won three purple and Reg and Neil both moved to the Red side the following year.
Another move saw the Paynes relocate to Dongara, with Reg continuing to play bowls there and taking part in three pennant winning sides. They enjoyed Dongara but missed their Perth based daughter, sons and grandchildren – so it was back to Kalamunda in 1995, where they have played in the club's first division for many years, Reg winning all the club championship titles there apart from the singles.
Reg Payne has played top division bowls for over 44 years and has an astute grasp of the finer points of how to manage a head. Acutely aware of the fickle nature of bowls, he is more likely to tell you amusing bowls stories about his losses rather than his many wins.
If you’ve ever watched the bloke play the thing that strikes you most is how he applauds his teammates' good shots. It’s a trait he thinks is most important – but one that sadly too many bowlers neglect.
We all like a pat on the back and an ego boost and Reg is the master at providing that. He is quick to lavish praise on the abilities of his many opponents over the years, and singles out Steve Srhoy, "because of his longevity and tactical skills", Bert Sharp,"same reason", and Geoff Oakley, "winning five State Singles speaks for itself, " while giving Anthony Provost praise as "the most talented player I've seen."
A West Coast Eagles supporter, Reg is a classic example of the Aussie boy from the bush who thrives on sport and revels in a club atmosphere. He had tremendous success at a range of sports and the bowls fraternity is fortunate that bowls was one of those sports.
If you’re ever lucky enough to get in a school with him, be prepared to listen and you will hear some great stories and probably leave that bit wiser and better for the experience. He is truly one of the characters of our sport.