NEVILLE Billington’s meteoric rise in lawn bowls ranks came as a surprise to the lifelong cricketer.
He booked a spot in a Western District Bowls Division powerhouse’s top side just six months after packing his cricket whites away.
Now he’s aiming to cement his spot in the City Memorial Red line-up for the remainder of the 2016-17 season.
“I had played cricket all my life, up until the end of last year, and I really didn’t have any intentions of playing bowls,” Billington said.
“But I have an uncle who plays here, Leo Dunn, and he asked me to come up and bowl with him one day and I probably haven’t been away from the place since then.
“I just got addicted to it. It hasn’t been the easiest game to pick up but it’s like any sport, the more you practice, hopefully the better you get.”
Billington, 50, now finds himself honing his skills at the bowls club most days after his early morning shifts for his laundry business.
He is learning as he goes on game days, heeding advice from experienced skipper Vince Moloney and other high-calibre teammates.
“I watch them a fair bit and play with them as much as I can, so far it’s been terrific,” Billington said of his debut season.
“They’ve thrown me in the deep end. I didn’t think I’d be playing division one but I will try and do my best.
“I started in the Gold team in round one and after that I have been in the Red team.”
Billington had a long and decorated career in south-west cricket circles, starting at aged eight at Grassmere before retiring from Wesley-CBC last summer.
Stints at Nestles, Cobden and West Warrnambool formed part of his 42-year career and a Warrnambool and District Cricket Association division one century for the Beavers five years ago a testament to his longevity.
“My body is still feeling the aches of that,” Billington joked.
“I only played the one game (in the top grade that year); I filled in. I captained the division two and I went up for that day just to help out.
“I batted in the top order, one, two, three around there (during my career).
“I used to bat for a long time but as I got older I got more impatient and wanted to hit it a bit more.”
Billington and his City Memorial Red teammates play fellow premiership contender Koroit Blue in round six on Saturday.
In other games, Terang Green hosts Warrnambool Gold, Warrnambool White meets Port Fairy Red, Lawn Tennis Red battles Mortlake Blue, Timboon Gold tackles Dennington Red and Warrnambool Blue welcomes City Memorial Gold.