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Club man .. Excelsior petanque stalwart Herbie Tonkin (kneeling) measures a shot at a tournament. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

Oamaru is a small town but it is home to hundreds of different clubs and organisations. The Oamaru Mail has decided to find out more about some of them. This week, reporter Tyson Young takes a look at the Excelsior Petanque Club.

People looking to play a friendly sport that is not ultra-competitive should join the Excelsior Petanque Club, Herb Tonkin says.

Pentanque is one of four sports sections that make up the Excelsior Sports Club.

Hive of activity … There is plenty of room on the piste behind the Excelsior Club. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

The petanque club began 20 years ago, and while its numbers are small – there are only about 20 regular members – it fulfils a key role in the community for players of the traditional French game.

Other people affiliated with the group would occasionally play a “game or two” when they felt like it, Mr Tonkin said.

“People come along on for a good old natter, a cup of tea and a biccie,” he said.

It was good to get newcomers on board, Mr Tonkin said.

Eyes on the prize … David Gardiner prepares for his shot during the Super Six petanque tournament at the Excelsior club recently. PHOTO: CAROL EDWARDS

The club meets twice a week – every Wednesday and Sunday – to play at the petanque grounds at Centennial Park.

“We usually play about four half-hour games.”

Mr Tonkin, who had previously been involved with Excelsior rugby, has had two stints as petanque club president since joining in 2002, and now acts as treasurer.

He stumbled on to the club when he was looking for a social sport to play with wife Suzanne. After the couple found out they could play the sport together, they were keen to sign up.

Mr Tonkin and his wife travel around the South Island playing the sport. They have played in Christchurch, Dunedin and Alexandra.

“The people you meet are a fantastic group of people,” he said.

Petanque was not a sport that many people played because it required a lot of patience and concentration.

Each season, the club never really knew how many people would sign up. “You drop three or four and then you gain four or five,” he said.