Meat your maker: Smidt reveals all for Meet the Members
BOWLS :This week’s member to be featured in our Meet the Members series is someone who has been mentioned regularly in previous interviews, Ron ‘Pork Chop’ Smidt.
Ron has only been with the Yamba Bowling Club for a relatively short period but has certainly made his mark on and off the greens. In 2019, he experienced considerable success taking the club’s Minor Singles Championships, runner-up in the Minor Triples, and a member of the Grade 5 Pennant side to make it to the state finals. He was also runner-up in the prestigious CRDBA Presidents Reserve Bowler of the Year award. This year was also going well for Ron prior to the suspension of the season, tasting success in the club Major Fours Championship and as a member of the runner-up teams in both the CRDBA Open Pairs and Fours Championships.
Ron, being a shy and retiring type, was initially reluctant to participate in the interview but eventually weaken and the following discussion may help us to better understand this outstanding clubman.
DF: How did you get the nickname ‘Pork Chop’?
RS: Ian Parker made the name up. I was visiting a friend’s place and they have a miniature pet pig. I went to pat it and it bit me on the leg. Ian clearly saw the irony in this as I have been a butcher all my life. I believe the headline was “Bacon Bites Back” in the Daily Examiner. That pig got to fight another day, but I caught up with a few of its friends at the butcher shop.
DF: Where did you grow up?
RS: I was born in Maclean and have lived here all my life. I bought one of the first houses in Townsend and still live in that house 50 years later.
DF: Who was your best mate at school?
RS: I wasn’t in school long enough to make any friends. I remember my father dropping me off one day and I beat him home. School wasn’t for me.
DF: What was your primary occupation?
RS: I started as a butcher’s apprentice in 1961 at the Co-op butchery in Maclean. I have dabbled in cane cutting, bar work and fishing but I’m a butcher at heart.
DF: My father was a butcher, so I do ask with some level of understanding. Do all butchers learn how to deliver corny jokes?
RS: There is a butcher’s language that only butchers speak and understand. I think my jokes are funny. Are you calling my jokes corny and what does ‘prosaic’ mean?
DF: Where was your first lawn bowling experience?
RS: I started playing at Maclean in 2011 after going for a roll-up with Jimmy Shannon. I was immediately hooked. My wife has been complaining about me never being home ever since.
DF: When did you first play lawn bowls seriously?
RS: Initially, I played in small club competitions at Maclean and continued to expand to include a lot more higher-level championships and tournaments.
DF: At what age did you take up lawn bowls?
RS: I started playing just after I retired when I was 66 years of age. A shoulder operation prevented me from doing anything else so I thought I would give it a try.
DF: What other sports have you or do you play competitively?
RS: I started playing rugby league for the Lower Clarence Magpies when I was in my teens and played up until my early 30s, however, I was forced to retire after breaking my leg. I dabbled in some indoor cricket and took up tennis when my daughter started playing. She is still jealous of the fact that I have an Australia Day medal and she doesn’t.
DF: What is the best aspect of the game?
RS: I love the competitiveness and mateship. The people you meet from other areas and of course a cold beer after the game.
DF: How long have you been with the Yamba club?
RS: I have been bowling with the Yamba Bowling Club for approximately two years.
DF: What is your favourite characteristic or feature about the club?
RS: The club is so well run and they are so accommodating to the bowlers. They love having us on the greens, which by the way are amazing. The way the bowls are organised is professional, and well done. I am so happy to be bowling at Yamba.
DF: What has been your greatest achievement in the game?
RS: It’s hard to choose between winning the minor singles at Yamba in 2019, winning the gold medal pairs at Brooms Head with Brett Pringle two years in succession or going away to the state pennant playoffs in 2019.
DF: You have played with and against some pretty handy bowlers, who in particular has made a lasting impression?
RS: Ben Lee, although he is no longer with us, he taught me a lot about the game. We played a lot of pairs together and he was always one to crack a joke and keep everybody smiling. I hope he is having a roll up in heaven as we speak.
DF: Who is the best team-person with whom you have played?
RS: Steve Jackson and Brett Pringle. Both are good bowlers and don’t get sick of my corny butcher’s jokes.
DF: Who is the most humorous player with which you have played?
RS: Peter Forrester likes to think his jokes are funny. We sometimes have other opinions of his one-liners. Happy to put up with his bad jokes though as he is a great bowler and awesome person to play with or against.
DF: Which bowler in the world would you like to play and why?
RS: I’m happy to have a game with anyone who loves the game, is keen to play and shouts a beer afterwards. I will shout back.
DF: Where is the strangest place that you have played lawn bowls?
RS: During the COVID-19 lockdown I mowed a strip down the middle of my backyard. Having a roll up in a suburban back yard was a bit tricky with weeds, uneven surfaces and no one seems to pick the pegs up from under the clothesline.
DF: What is your greatest regret in the game?
RS: I wish I had started playing bowls earlier in my life. Work and a family were my priority until I retired, now I have time.
DF: What goal or ambition do you have for your bowling career?
RS:To live long enough and be good enough to win the Major Singles Championship at Yamba. Also, to go on to represent Australia, but at 74 years of age, I fear that horse may have bolted.
DF: How would you improve the sport given the opportunity?
RS: It would be great to get younger players involved. There is a perception that bowls is a game for older, retired people. The success of Brad Johnson from the Yamba club has shown it is a game for every age.
DF: Any last words?
RS: One of the greatest thrills I have received was to be nominated for reserve player of the year in the district. It was totally unexpected and was an honour to be nominated by the Yamba Bowling Club. I never got to thank the club for the nomination. I am grateful that they thought so highly of me. I love playing bowls in Yamba and hope to do it for a good while longer.
Joke of the week: What is it when one butcher spies on another?
A steak out.