Leonie Flynn has accomplished yet another triumph off the back of a wildly successful season with Stratford Bowls Club, becoming one of nine women set to represent Victoria at the Australian Indoor Championships.

Winning the Australian Indoor Qualifying event hosted at Traralgon Bowls Club on June 3, Flynn has been named one of the nine women to represent Victoria at the 2023 Australian Indoor Championships from August 14 to 17 in Tweed Heads, New South Wales.

Flynn’s qualifying for the 2023 Australian Indoor Championships comes after a successful first season with Stratford Bowls Club and her sixth season; the self-taught bowler entered the 2023 Henselite Victorian Open Mixed Pairs competition with her partner Philip Crowder, the bowls operations manager and player at Karingal Bowls Club, hosted in Traralgon on Saturday, March 25.

Stratford’s Flynn and Karingal’s Crowder defeated Ocean Grove’s Graeme Burgess and Sue Collins to win the 2023 Henselite Victorian Open Mixed Pairs competition.

“We actually changed positions,” Flynn explained.

“I skipped, which means I’m sort of running the show, and he led, which means he always starts off.

“I am actually the very first female skip to ever win a mixed pairs event in Victorian Open history.

“It was just an amazing get, and I was absolutely stoked and really proud actually of myself and my partner because that made him the very first male lead ever in Victorian Open history, so now we are state champions which is pretty exciting.”

Henselite Victorian Open Mixed Pairs winners Phil Crowder and Leonie Flynn. Photos: Contributed

Flynn also secured a minor premiership with her Stratford Division 1 Saturday team, a Gippsland Bowls Region premiership with her Stratford Division 2 Midweek Pennant team, a North Gippsland premiership with her Stratford Division 2 Midweek Pennant team and a Stratford Bowls Club premiership in the Women’s Pairs with partner Kirstie White.

While making the Victorian team for the 2023 Australian Indoor Championships is a first-time achievement for Flynn, her bowling success has been consistent since she began at Heyfield Bowls Club six years ago; her upcoming national stint is just another accolade to her impressive bowling resume.

“In five years [at Heyfield Bowls Club], I won three champion fours, I won the last three ladies singles championships and three lots of ladies pairs,” Flynn said.

Flynn’s success, while impressive, is also somewhat hard to believe; how does a former Maffra Football-Netball Club A Grade netballer land a spot on Victoria’s state team just six years after joining the sport, with no formal coaching?

“I played netball all my life; I played A Grade at Maffra and obviously went down a little bit, and I was in my mid-40s, and I went to try out for C or D Grade at Heyfield, and I couldn’t believe it, I thought I tried out really well, but I got knocked back,” Flynn said.

“I was working at the pub, I am a nurse by trade, but I was just working at the pub, and one of the regular fellas was in, and I was probably complaining that I didn’t get a run, and he said, ‘Oh, you should come over and have a go at bowls’.

“That man was Noel Snow, Snowy as he’s known in Heyfield.”

Flynn purchased a set of bowls from Snowy for $100, which she still uses today, and had three half-hour bowling sessions with Snow over three Friday afternoons.

After just three short sessions and two games of Crackerjack, a lady from Heyfield Bowls Club approached Flynn asking if she was interested in playing Pennant.

“I didn’t know what Pennant was, so I said, ‘Possibly, depends on what it involves’, and the next week I started playing Pennant.

“That’s where it took off, as easy as that, and I am addicted to it now; I just love it.”

Leonie Flynn stands alongside her Stratford Division 2 Midweek Pennant premiership team.

While this explains how Flynn transitioned from netballer to bowler, how the registered nurse quickly became a coveted bowler with no formal coaching can only be attributed to natural-born talent and practice.

Although Flynn pays tribute to her former bowls club, Heyfield, and current club Stratford, there is every possibility the state champion and soon-to-be state representative never pursued the sport she has come to know and love if not for their welcoming and supportive communities.

“There are some wonderful and beautiful people at the Heyfield Bowls Club,” Flynn gushed.

“It was a magnificent club; I loved playing there.”

One Heyfield Bowls Club member, Max Page, played a particularly influential role in her early bowling career, serving as the closest thing to a coach Flynn has ever had.

“Old Max Page from Heyfield, if anything, he helped me a lot with delivery,” she said.

“He said, ‘Leonie, don’t worry about what people say about your delivery’ because it’s probably quite unusual; I start off quite high and then get down quite low.”

Having only recently transferred to Stratford Bowls Club with two other former Heyfield bowlers, 25-year-old Kirsty White and her father, Jason White, Flynn is thriving, showering her new sporting community with praise.

“Stratford has just embraced us; it is absolutely fantastic,” Flynn exclaimed.

“We’re loving it.

“As much as Karingal and a few Melbourne clubs have asked me to play, I have just said no; I’m going to stick with Stratty because they’ve been good to me, and I owe them a bit, I think.”

Not only is the Stratford bowler kept busy on the green, but Flynn is a passionate ambassador for the sport, eager to shatter the misconception that playing bowls is for the elderly, and inspire the younger generation to give it a try.

“Bowls is going to die if they don’t introduce it to a younger crowd,” she said.

“Gone are the days where they wear the long white dresses; in fact, I don’t even know how they bowled in them.

“It’s just amazing now, and the sport can really grow.

“It’s a game for everybody, it doesn’t discriminate, and that is the fantastic thing about it.”

Flynn is now preparing for her biggest competition yet as the Australian Indoor Championships, at Club Tweed, in Tweed Heads, New South Wales, from August 14 to 17 fast approaches.

“I am nervous,” Flynn admits.

“But I am also really excited.

“I don’t expect to win because I’ll be up against very experienced Australian Champions, but I will go up there and give it my best.”