Bulli Bowling and Sports Club farewelled

Members of Bulli Bowling and Sports Club farewelled more than 2013 last night - they also said goodbye to their club.

Opened in 1953, the club shut its doors at 6pm yesterday after an afternoon of drinks for the members.

The Woonona Bulli RSL Club board, which oversaw the bowling club, decided in November that it had to be closed after at least five years running at a loss.

Woonona Bulli RSL general manager Michael Brennan said the board had been working on strategies to keep the club open since 2011.

"We invested money in 2012 and improved the amenities but we just didn't see any results or positive turnaround," Mr Brennan said yesterday.

"It's sad day today, there's a lot of history involved in the bowling club.

"The RSL has been associated for 20 years, so it's an emotional day for everybody."

For some of the members, the club's closure will hit them hard.

"They've busted up a family," 20-year member Alan Robertson said of the board's decision.

He said most of the members would go to Woonona but some planned to join bowling clubs at Bellambi or Corrimal.

"There are some friends here you'll never see again," Mr Robertson said.

"You don't run into them at parties or other places; you just see them here."

Rodney Jackson, who has been a member of the club for five years, felt the community lost a valuable asset last night.

"To me, I think a pub like this should not close down because it's for the community," Mr Jackson said.

"It's not just a watering hole, it's a hub for the community.

"Everyone knows everyone.

"People have met husbands [here], people have found wives."

The club's bowlers punched above their weight with four of its eight teams in the Zone 16 pennant making the grand final, and one winning and going on to become state runner-up, he said.

The closure was particularly bad timing for Frank Valk, a member for 25 years, whose birthday was yesterday.

"What a way to celebrate your birthday - getting kicked out at 6 o'clock," Mr Valk said.

"This place is a meeting place for everyone. Even if they only come here for a couple of beers. They have a bit of a yak and go home."

Mr Brennan said the problem facing the Bulli Bowling Club was far from unique, with bowling clubs across the state finding it hard to stay open.

"The information that we've got is that the game of bowls has decreased immensely over the last decade," he said.

"Over 70 bowling clubs have either closed or amalgamated in the last 10 years. Even the numbers for Zone 16 [of which Bulli was a part], they've reduced from 8000 registered bowlers to 3200 bowlers since the mid-1990s."

Mr Brennan said the reality for the bowling clubs was that their running costs needed to be subsidised by a larger entity to be able to survive.

The Woonona Bulli RSL board was yet to decide on the site's future, he said.

"The board haven't got any solid idea of what the next direction is for the site," he said.

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