Many outstanding lawn bowlers are competing at Bendigo Bank Bendigo Country Week, but none are more impressive than Ralph Simpson.
The 73-year-old from Sea Lake has a genetic eye disorder, Best disease, which means he can’t even see the end of a bowls rink.
While that presents an obvious problem, Simpson – who is directed where to place his shots by his wife Jennifer – is an astounding bowler.
Playing at Marong Bowls Club in the pairs yesterday, Simpson regularly curled his bowl within a few feet of the kitty.
It’s nothing new for the former farmer, who won bronze in the men’s singles and mixed pairs at last year’s Australian Bowls Championships for the blind and will represent Australia at the world titles in England in July.
“This will be my first world titles, I never expected to get there,” he said.
Simpson began playing bowls 10 years ago and has been a blind bowler since 2009.
“He’s always had a good technique,” Jennifer said. “That’s probably what’s held him in good stead.”
Jennifer knew nothing about bowls when she began directing her husband, but quickly picked up the nuances of the sport and now also plays.
“Because I didn’t have any understanding – I didn’t know what greens were, I didn’t know change hands didn’t literally mean change hands – I wasn’t a great deal of assistance to start with,” she said.
“I like to think I’m pretty helpful now.”
Simpson said the support from his wife had led to big improvement in his game.
“She’s very supportive and we don’t have too many arguments,” he said.
“She’s picked it up and started to play bowls and we’ve started to really improve.”
Simpson’s Country Week campaign ended yesterday with the pairs competition wrapping up, but the fours started yesterday and continues until tomorrow evening.