By Matt Male
AN umpire from the Inverloch Bowling Club will be keeping a watchful eye over the best bowlers internationally this year at the Commonwealth Games.
Umpire and keen bowls player Lorraine Dowson has been picked as one of the umpires for the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
Lorraine’s the only qualified international umpire in Gippsland, starting at the Inverloch Bowling Club 14 years ago.
“I used to live half-way between Inverloch and Wonthaggi,” she said.
“I was just learning to bowl and I met a lady who played at Inverloch and I thought it was a good, friendly club and very supportive so I went there.”
About three years ago, she was accredited as an international bowls umpire.
Recently, she was announced as one of the umpires for the Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a bit unbelievable,” she said last week.
“I thought this sort of thing only happens to city people.
“Then I had to keep it a secret for four months. I couldn’t divulge. It was like keeping the gender of your baby a secret.”
Now Lorraine regularly gets a wave and congratulatory hug when she bumps into someone on the street who’s heard of the wonderful news.
“It’s actually a little funny for me to say it too. I’m just a little girl from South Gippsland.”
The umpire went up against 41 other applicants for the 20 umpiring positions in the Gold Coast games.
“It’s based on your experience and what you’ve done during the year.”
As for advice for other bowls players, Lorraine says: “I think, and this is with all sports, you should start young.
“On the international level, you get a lot of people in their 20s playing, although at a local level it’s often retirees.”
Umpiring at Inverloch Bowling Club, there are usually two umpires; one on the green answering questions and another working off the green, making decisions on law and measuring.
“But with international, you’re doing all of that,” Lorraine said.
On a local level, the public can walk within centimetres of players, but at the Commonwealth Games, they’re kept in the stands.
“Although you can walk in and out of games, you’re kept to the public stands; you can’t just walk around where the player and umpires are working.
“It will be quite different.”
Spectators are also banned from giving advice to players.
“It’s just to clarify everyone’s roles and make sure there’s no spectators that might take it a little bit too far; ‘over-enthusiastic’ commentators you might call them.
“If you’re nominated as a coach, only the coach can give advice, and spectators can comment that a player did a good shot, but that’s about it.”
There’s plenty of preparation for Lorraine and other umpires coming up to the Commonwealth Games; and the pressure’s on, with one game already sold out.
“I’m somewhere between excited and nervous; I’m really excited but nervous too; there won’t be the freedom we normally have, but I’m looking forward to that,” Lorraine said.
She said bowls is a sport suitable for all ages. The official ceremony for the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games is on Wednesday, April 4 and the bowls begin the following day.