Welcome mat out
If you build it, they will come.
It might have worked for Kevin Costner and his baseball diamond in Field of Dreams, but Kahutia Bowling Club members can’t rely on Hollywood magic to get the most from their new petanque “terrain”.
They need people to have a hands-on experience with a game that brings a touch of France to Gisborne’s leafy streets.
To that end, they’ll host an open evening when interested people can try the game, free of charge.
Those who turn up at the Kahutia Bowling Club in Cobden Street, next to Chelsea Hospital, on Thursday from 5.30pm, will be shown how to play, and boules will be available for them to use for the evening. Boules are the metal balls, usually hollow, thrown as close as possible to a smaller wooden ball. People will also have the opportunity to look at the club’s facilities.
Petanque was suggested to the club’s management committee in 2017 as a game that would expand membership without compromising lawn bowling activities. It was suggested the two codes would be complementary. Experience elsewhere was that most members played predominantly one game or the other but mingled socially after the day’s play.
Initially, the club intended to create a recreational facility, but members opted for a competition-grade amenity that would allow the development of players who wanted to take part at the highest levels of the sport.
The game is played on an area called a terrain, on which lanes called pistes are roped off.
Traditionally, the playing surface is hard dirt or gravel. At Kahutia, fine limestone aggregate was locally sourced for the surface. The aim is to have a loose surface that allows a good roll but not so much that the boules roll too far or too fast.
Trevor Jukes, whose grandparents were club members and whose wife Carol is club secretary/treasurer, organised the supply of the aggregate; club members contributed voluntary labour; and grants covered costs.
Asked to put a rough dollar value on the project if the club had had to pay for every component, including labour, Trevor Jukes said $15,000 would just about cover it.
Club member Ray Taylor is enthusiastic about the possibilities offered by the petanque option.
“It’s another way for the club to grow,” he said.
“We have the facilities here and they’re not being used as much as they should be. We’re hoping people will come along with their families on Thursday and have a go at petanque. If they want, they can try their hand at lawn bowls as well.”
Anyone interested in organising petanque activities would be especially welcome, club members say.
(Film buffs might recall the actual quote from Field of Dreams is: “If you build it, he will come”.)
• Petanque has an international governing body, the Fédération Internationale de Pétanque et Jeu Provençal (FIPJP), which was founded in Marseille in 1958. It now has 112 national federations in as many countries. Five continental confederations are under the jurisdiction of the FIPJP. Petanque New Zealand — with over 40 clubs — belongs to Oceania and is an associate member of the Asian confederation.
Petanque New Zealand holds annual national championships in triples, doubles, singles, mixed doubles, women’s triples and senior doubles, as well as a club championship.
World championships take place every two years — in even-numbered years for men and odd-numbered years for women and youth.
The origins of petanque go back to the ancient Greeks, who played a game of tossing coins, then flat stones and later stone balls. The Romans modified the game by adding a target, and this variation was taken to France by Roman soldiers and sailors.
After the Romans, the stone balls were replaced by wooden balls and in the Middle Ages the game became commonly known as boules.
In the 14th century, Charles IV and Charles V of France forbade commoners from playing the sport, a ban that was not lifted till the 17th century.
By the 19th century, the game had become lawn bowls in England, but in France the game evolved into jeu provençal, similar to today’s petanque, except the length of the playing area was longer and players ran three steps before throwing.
The current form of petanque originated in 1907 in La Ciotat, in Provence, France. It was developed by cafe owner Ernest Pitiot to accommodate a player, Jules Lenoir, whose rheumatism prevented him from running before he threw the ball. The length of the pitch was reduced by about half, and a player no longer took a run-up to throw the ball but stood, stationary, in a circle.
The first petanque tournament under the new rules was organised by brothers Ernest and Joseph Pitiot in 1910, and the new form of the game soon became the most popular form of boules in France.