What is Pennant?

What’s the idea behind it?

The main form of competition between bowls clubs is Pennant, which is organised by Bowls Victoria and represents about 80-90% of the bowls played in Victoria.  One idea of Pennant is to allow all skill levels of bowlers to play a regular competitive bowls match against players who are roughly of their standard.

How is it organised?

Pennant teams compete in a number of Divisions ranked on their skill level. The top competition is Premier League, and the skill levels go from Division 1 to, say, Division 8 and a lowest-ranked six-a-side competition for clubs that cannot field another full side.

Each Division has a number of Sections which are grouped in local areas.  Promotion and demotion occurs at the end of each season.

Teams consist of Rinks of four players (Fours), with each Team having four Rinks on Saturday, three Rinks on Tuesday and two Rinks Of three players (Triples) in the 6-a-side competitions on either day.

Only two bowls are required for Pennant. Thirds (who direct the head when the skip is bowling) must have a measuring tape and chalk or spray to mark “touchers” and chocks to support leaning bowls when measuring.  Seconds must have a pen or pencil that works so they can mark the score card.  Leads must strive to roll the jack to a precise length.

Teams win by scoring more total shots than the opposing team. For example, for Saturday three rinks may lose by two shots each but one rink might win by 10 shots. Your team scores 10 points for the overall win and two points for the rink win, the losing team scores six points for the three winning rinks, final score is 12 to 6.

The ladder is based on wins and then shots-for minus shots-against. At the end of the season the top four sides play-off for the Section Pennant, first against fourth, second against third and the two winner’s play-off for the Pennant. The winner goes on to play for the Division (whole of Melbourne metropolitan) pennant.

Team selection

At Hampton selectors are elected each season at or before the AGM, normally five selectors for each bowls day.

Selection is based on selecting the best Skips, then Thirds, Seconds and Leads for each side.

For example, the best four Skips are selected for our top team for Saturday followed by the other team members.  There might be other players who could fill places below the Skip however we need to select balanced and compatible sides for all Teams in all divisions, Different positions require different skill sets, including tactics, so getting the positions sorted out is always a judgement by the selectors.

If you sign up for one of the Pennant competitions, the selectors will assume you are available each week (They cannot phone 70 people every week!).

It is critical that if you are UNAVAILABLE you add your name to the list on the notice board in the bar as early as possible for dates you cannot play. If you are available, but are listed as an emergency on the team sheet you must be available to play on the day. Be ready for a phone call.

Teams are normally announced two to three days before the play date. This will often require the Chairperson of each selection committee to ring players to tell them if they have been moved lower or higher in the teams and to try and fill vacancies for late withdrawals.

Teams Selection Sheets are placed on the notice board on the deck and in the bar as soon as teams stabilise (see paragraph above).  They are also published on the website in the Members section, and are emailed to all email users.

Getting to the match

Rinks will normally travel to away matches together if that suits and a meeting time for leaving the back-car park is set on the Team Sheet. Skips will try and make contact with their rink members, or members should advise Skips or Team Managers if they are travelling on their own. We try and leave no one behind in the car park!

For Tuesday Pennant you need to bring your own lunch to most clubs, although a few do sell lunches. You will get tea and coffee and often the opportunity to enter a raffle.

Team Managers

 Each team has a manager who will: fill in the players’ names on the score cards for each rink, collect a brown “green fees” envelope and individual player ranking cards from the club.

Green fees are $10 per player, either as cash or you purchase a strip of Green fees tickets from the Bar at a discount ($9).

On the day the Managers of the opposing teams will sit at the Managers table, mix the score cards and do a blind selection of what rinks play each other.  Then they fill in the opposing teams’ names on their score card. A coin is tossed to determine which team has the option of rolling the first jack, which applies to all rinks.

The Team Manager will then give the score cards, green fees envelope and player score cards* to each Second. The Second will collect the green fees from each player and place them in the envelope and distribute the Bowlers score cards to each bowler. He will tell each Skip and/or Lead who “has the mat”. The second scores for the team.

*Player score cards (filled in after the game) are used as feedback to selectors about players’ form.  You give your team-mates a score for the day.

 Only the team managers or the Greens Director can agree to call off a match due to wet weather.  And if the temperature reaches 36C, then managers are obliged to bring players off the green.  However if high temperatures are forecast Bowls Victoria may cancel the round in advance.  A minimum 60 (Saturday) and 45 (Tuesday) ends must be played for scores to count for full teams.  Team managers on Saturday agree whether there will be a midpoint break (Tuesdays always have a lunch time break).


Home teams may practise up to 30 minutes prior to the start time, but only on Rinks your team will not be using during the match. Away teams can only sit and watch if they are early.

Roll Up consists of each bowler bowling in order from each end to get a feel for the green speed and to pick aiming points. The Lead of the team who “has the mat” Rolls the first Jack and will have first bowl, followed by the Lead from the other team. Then the Seconds, Thirds and finally the Skips.

After the first end roll up the team without the mat has the second roll up back in the opposite direction, thus gives the other team the opportunity of placing the mat and rolling the jack.

Once the Roll Up is complete the game begins. Twenty-one ends are played.

The team with the mat sets the position of the mat and rolls the jack. The Skip will tell the Lead where to place the mat and indicate the length to roll the jack by placing a foot on the centre line at the length desired. A good Lead will deliver the Jack to the requested length.

If the Jack is not in play the opposing team’s Lead may relocate the Mat, roll the jack, but does not have first shot. If it is out of bounds again it is placed on the Tee.

The Leads then bowl in turn followed by the Seconds and Thirds.  It is important to vacate the mat once your bowl has stopped, as you then no longer have “possession of the mat”.

Skips now change places with the other three members of the team and play their bowls in turn.


Only the Thirds have a role in deciding the score, so they will agree on the winning shot and the next shot etc. If there is a disagreement, they will measure the shots. Shots not in doubt may first be removed from the head and placed on a rag so that they will not be re-included in the count by accident. If the Thirds cannot agree they request an Umpire to measure. Umpires are accredited measurers and are supplied by the home side.  The umpire’s decision is final.

The side that wins an end must place the mat and roll the jack for the next end.

After 21 ends the winning side congratulates the losers on a good game while the Seconds check the score cards and sign both of them (the finish time is also shown on the card).

At “The End of the Day”.

Team managers collect all the score cards and then sit with their opposition manager as the home manager fills in a master scoresheet. On returning to the club they hand them to a selector or person nominated to enter the scores on the Bowls Victoria site, or place them in the scorecard box on the deck. The selection sheet is also filled in with final scores on each notice board and entered onto the club’s website in the Members section.

Players score cards (your assessment of other team-members that day) are also placed into the scorecard box on the deck.

We all then have a beer, wine or coffee and discuss what went right/wrong. On Saturdays there is often a Sausage sizzle on the club deck.

You can also follow your team’s progress up the ladder on the Bowls Victoria Results Portal, as well as tracking your personal cumulative success on it, as the season progresses.


There are always differing views about selection, and if you have any, these should be addressed to a selector in the next 5 days after the game. Please don’t start asking selectors why they were selected in a position or team on the day of the match. Selectors have been bowling and also need to wind down.

Tuesday selectors meet after the match results are all in and conduct a preliminary team selection for next week.  They also tally up the score cards – always fun!

Saturday Selectors meet midweek.