The local bowls community welcomed Ivan Robb’s richly-deserved Sports Awards prize but admitted he’s an impossible act to follow.
The News’ former bowls correspondent landed the 2012 lifetime achievement award for his tireless dedication to the sport which spanned nearly a quarter of a century.
Within months of taking up the game at Highbury Bowls Club in 1989, he volunteered to compile match reports for The News – a role he continued in right up until this year.
But having held a number of key positions, from president and secretary of the Portsmouth & District Bowls Association, to president of Victory Indoor Bowls Club and chairman of their management council, Robb’s current battle with serious illness meant he had to step aside recently.
Unable to attend the ceremony at Ferneham Hall, friends Brian Martin, Tom Pullin and Dave Wildman collected the trophy on his behalf.
But Wildman, the league secretary, knows they are big shoes to fill considering Robb has done so much for the sport in the region.
Wildman said: ‘He is so well-respected and will be greatly missed from the Portsmouth & District Bowls Association.
‘He’s done so much for the sport in our region.
‘He organised something where he got schoolkids and their parents to come in and try out the sport alongside each other and we managed to get a few new players out of that.
‘Two of them are now in the national training squad for England.
‘I’ve seen for myself what a fantastic job he’s done, having picked up the mantle from him.
‘He usually knew what was going on at most clubs but everyone knows him and was delighted to hear about his award.
‘His wife Beryl was very proud as well.’
Robb joined an illustrious list of lifetime winners that includes Milan Mandaric, Linvoy Primus, Jack Pearce, Gerry North and Jack Bishop.
But he is the first person to be honoured from the world of local bowls, which underlines his influence on the sport.
Robb played an integral role in making the Southsea Open one of the most prestigious tournaments in the country and organised countless events to promote the sport.
And the high regard he is held in by his peers was summed up when he was asked to bowl the first wood in the last-ever match at Highbury Bowls Club before its closure.
Wildman said: ‘It’s a sport he loves and he is keen to get as many people as possible involved in it.
‘He played cricket and was a keen amateur boxer back in the day.
‘But I think he enjoys the fact that bowls is open for everyone to play against one another.
‘It’s one of the few sports I know where a nine-year-old can play with or against a 92-year-old and can also play with or against a disabled bowler.
‘There is no differential between them.’