Founding MSA Petanque Club members Rosemary McLaughlin and Lester Herron.

Ten years of petanque in Ashburton will be marked when players gather for a nostalgic look back later this month.

The game has grown and the standard of play increased since a gathering of strangers met in the Ashburton Domain in March 2012.

The call for people interested in playing petanque was made by retiree Rosemary McLaughlin, who discovered the game while on a North Island trip.

From humble beginnings numbers have grown to over 50 today.

A hardcore group of around 20 from those early years are still involved today, including Mrs McLaughlin.

“Petanque for me remains a fun and sociable game.

“It’s a sport that is played year round and that has always appealed to me.”

Mrs McLaughlin said the Ashburton Courier had helped to promote the game from day one and continued to take an active interest.

She said back in 2012 one of the those contacting her had been Christchurch petanque player and coach Lester Herron, who at the time was president of the Papanui Petanque Club.

“Lester was our first president and has so much knowledge of the game. He’s the one who suggested the possibility of petanque becoming a section of the Ashburton Club & MSA,” she said.

The club is a sub section of the MSA and affiliated with Petanque New Zealand (PNZ) and is known as the MSA Petanque Club.

Five all-weather pistes at the MSA Bowling Club’s grounds off Racecourse Road were dug out in late 2012 and the first boules were thrown in February the following year.

Timaru were the first visitors to the complex and at least six big tournaments are hosted in Ashburton every year, as well as around 10 club events.

The facility can now accommodate up to 16, three metre pistes.

Three shelters have been added in recent years and two sheds house scoreboards, a gazebo and spare equipment.

Lester Herron said the standard of play in Ashburton had also grown over the years.

Six club members had qualified and been involved in the recent nationals, he said.

“I’ve always emphasised to players that you can learn so much by travelling and playing at other venues and watching the really good players play.”

Mr Heron said the MSA Petanque Club catered to all abilities and players were able to decide what they wanted to achieve and how often they wanted to play.

The veteran petanque enthusiast has amassed a photographic history of his time at the MSA Petanque Club and will screen his photos at 10-year celebration planned for March 27. A picnic lunch and games in the Ashburton Domain will be followed by the photo screening and more games at the club’s base.

-By Mick Jensen