When it comes to Bendigo sport, there are few bigger names than Steven Oliver and Wayne Walsh.
Oliver played 13 AFL games for Carlton, kicked more than 1000 goals in club and representative football in the BFNL, won a couple of premierships with his beloved Castlemaine and comfortably sits alongside Ron Best as the best forward to play in the league.
Walsh was named captain of the BDCA Team of the Century, played in 13 premiership teams, scored more than 10,000 first XI runs and was the first player to win the BDCA Cricketer of the Year award three times.
Walsh was also a talented footballer, who coached at BFNL level, while Oliver was a talented cricketer and single-figure handicapper on the golf course.
Aside from their special sporting talents, the other trait Oliver and Walsh share is competitiveness.
That desire to compete is one of the reasons Oliver and Walsh are now playing at an elite level in another Bendigo sport - lawn bowls.
Oliver plays for Castlemaine's division one team, while Walsh represents Kangaroo Flat.
The duo headline a long list of central Victorian sporting talent that has turned to lawn bowls post their initial sporting careers.
Oliver and Walsh this week shared how their passion for bowls has grown and why they'd encourage others to take up the sport.
"My son James started playing bowls when he was seven or eight through his grandfather, my father-in-law,'' Oliver said.
"He was really keen and was playing up to four or five nights a week. I wasn't into it, so I was either sitting in the car or sitting in the bar.
"I figured out that spending that much time in the bar wasn't good for me, so I had a crack at bowls myself.
"I started off just playing socially and then after a while, because I'm so competitive, I wanted to test myself so I started to play in some social tournaments.
"The pressure came to play pennant, but I didn't play pennant for a couple of years because I had that perception that pennant was for the oldies."
Oliver's perception of pennant, including the age demographic and the skills required, quickly changed.
"I filled in a couple of games and really enjoyed it. The game is really quite challenging from the action itself to the strategy side of the game.
"I've really enjoyed learning a new sport and the intracices that come with it. It's not just about standing on the mat and crossing young fingers that the bowl gets down the other end.
"The team side of pennant bowls is great. Coming from a footy background, to get back into a team environment has been great for me.
"Each roll in pennant has a really unique importance. It comes back to that whole strategy around how my next bowl is going to help my rink and the broader team.
"There's always something going on. If you're a couple of shots down and it's your bowl and you have to play a certain shot that your skipper has asked for....there's pressure there and some people like it and some people don't.
"That's the side of the game that I really enjoy and I'm still learning about it every week.
"It keeps the competitive side of me going and I still have that drive to improve, although some of my team-mates would question my rate of improvement.
"I enjoy the whole concept."
The most important aspect of bowls for Oliver is family. This summer his son James has returned to the Castlemaine club after previously playing pennant in Melbourne and Ballarat and is the skipper of his rink.
"When you get to do something with your kids it's just fantastic,'' Oliver said.
"I got to play bowls with my Dad when he was alive and now I get to enjoy the game with my son."
It hasn't all gone to plan, though.
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"James sacked me after three weeks,'' Oliver said with a chuckle.
"Last year I said I'd love the opportunity to play as a third. I didn't have the experience or skill to do it, but I wanted to learn that side of it.
"When James came back to the club they started me as his third. We weren't far away, but we weren't that successful. We lost the first two or three weeks by six or seven shots, so I think he had a quiet word to the selectors and had me pushed back to second.
"It was okay with me. I'm as competitive as anyone and I hate to lose, but I'm also at that point where I understand how important it is for James to commit to the club because he lives out of town and comes back to play.
"These family type opportunities you don't get with every sport. You do with bowls. Mates of mine are getting interested in having a game.
"My sport has come full circle. Some of these mates I played junior cricket with and now we're playing bowls together. It's fantastic."
"I was heavily involved with footy and cricket all my life and to make the break from cricket (administration) I took up bowls 12 months before leaving (as BDCA president),'' Walsh said.
"I joined Kangaroo Flat just to see if I'd like it and it rubbed off on me pretty quickly that it was a good game
"In my second year we won a division two final and that success really got me going."
Walsh said pennant bowls had opened a new world to him socially, while at the same time it quenched the competitive thirst he relished in his footy and cricket careers.
"Even though there's still a need to put in time to practice, bowls is not as demanding as cricket or football,'' Walsh said.
"There's a social interaction with a new group of people. I was involved in cricket for so long where the circle of people remained relatively the same and similar with footy.
"Bowls allows you to stay involved in sport, meet new people and test yourself in a game that might look easy to some people, but I can tell you it's definitely not easy."
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During Walsh's stellar cricket career he was one of, if not, the best at using his verbal skills in a bid to get an edge on an opponent.
He said the game of bowls had changed his mentality.
"I don't hide behind the fact I played to win in cricket and footy and I would do what I could to get an advantage,'' Walsh said.
"In bowls, it's still very competitive and there's bowlers out there that I would aspire to be as good as, but it's different for me mentally.
"One difference I've noticed is that when I played cricket I would go home and analyse to the nth degree why the bowler got me out or why we lost the game.
"I don't do that in bowls. Yes, I'm disappointed if we lose and I want to play better bowls, but I'm not as anal with bowls as I was with cricket.
"In cricket I'd do everything I could to ensure all my team-mates knew how to bowl to certain opponents and where they liked to score.
"In bowls I still want to win every week, but it is different. When my opponent is on the mat I have no control as to what he or she is going to do. In cricket and footy you can control your opponent to some degree.
"The team aspect in bowls is still just as important in that you rely on all players across your team to perform."
Walsh particularly enjoys the banter with former cricket and footy associates.
"It's good to see ex-cricketers and footballers taking up bowls,'' Walsh said.
"Once your footy or cricket career is finished that doesn't have to be the end of your sporting career."
Walsh's Kangaroo Flat team sits inside the division one top four ahead of this weekend's resumption of play.
Moama is undefeated on the top of the ladder, but Walsh is confident the Roos can play a major role in the finals in March.
"Any team that makes the top four can win it,'' he said.
"The most consistent side so far has been Moama, so they have to be ranked the team to beat at this stage.
"South Bendigo has to be a big chance...Eaglehawk and us got rolled last round and East has moved into fifth, so it's probably a five-horse race, but there's still a long way to go yet."
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