Almost three years after a small South Coast club was razed to the ground in the Black Summer bushfires, it has reopened to much community fanfare – including the surprise appearance of celebrity chefs Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge.
After amalgamating with Club Malua, the Cabra Bowls Group spent $1.2 million refurbishing the much-loved Eurobodalla club and was just weeks from a relaunch when it was lost in the New Year’s Eve blaze that traumatised a whole community in 2019/20.
Denis Beavan, chairman of the Club Malua advisory committee, said it was a devastating loss for club members and the wider population.
“It was one of the most traumatic, frightening things I’ve been through and I’ve had 40 years as an emergency services worker,” Denis said. “I was scared, people were scared, we were confused. It really was the worst day of our lives.
“Early next morning they said the club had been lost. It took a few days for us to be able to get in and have a look at it … it was devastating, there was nothing left. There was just rubble on the ground.”
Almost immediately, Cabra Bowls pledged to rebuild.
“The CEO got in the car and came straight down,” Denis recalled.
“As soon as the police lifted the cordon we got in and … he made a commitment to establish temporary accommodation.
“As soon as the cordon was lifted, all the bowlers came onto the green. The greenkeepers we had at the time flooded the greens and they did a wonderful job to save them. We congregated on the greens, we held a barbecue on the greens and we decided as a community, as a bowling group, we would stay together and continue bowling.”
The club continued to operate for more than two and a half years out of that temporary accommodation – The Marquee – and went on to win the Southern Tablelands and Far South Coast Region 2022 Perfect Plate awards for “Dan’s Marquee Steak Sandwich”.
Cooked on a barbecue from Bunnings in the makeshift marquee, the club meal was voted one of the most popular in the state-wide competition, which was championed by celebrity chefs Manu Feildel and Colin Fassnidge.
Both were on hand at the official opening of the new $11 million Club Malua last Thursday, 28 July.
The pair entertained the crowd with anecdotes from their long cooking careers and congratulated the club and its community on their resilience.
“The story of this joint, the rebuild and the fire, it’s really a heartwarming story,” Colin said.
“That’s why we do this Perfect Plate thing. It looks like an easy thing, just eating food, but it’s not. But we get to come to places like this and hear the stories … that’s what it’s about.
“We are privileged to be here.”
Denis said bowlers and club members alike were delighted with the new facilities.
“This club is a hub to the community,” he said.
“A lot of people see this as their home, they see it as a place to gather, a place of safety … it’s their community centre.
“This community of Malua Bay and the area is expanding considerably. This club will re-establish itself as that nucleus of the community.
“We’ve had great support. When this club opened just a few days ago you couldn’t move in here, that’s how excited they were about it.
“We are over the moon.”