Featured, Stories - November 29, 2023
Silver lining to Greg’s dream
Silver lining in bowling dream
Greg Toy is tenacious, resilient and most of all competitive.
Calling Tatura, in north-east Victoria, home for the past six years, the avid lawn bowler has made a great impression in his inaugural state selection at the 2023 Para National Championships.
Greg has facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHMD) – a genetic disorder resulting in the degeneration of muscle, mainly affecting the face, shoulder, and upper arm muscles.
In Greg’s case, it affects muscles around his pelvis, hips and legs.
“I started getting symptoms when I was around 27, but it wasn’t until I was 50 I received the diagnosis I had the disorder,” Greg said.
A keen bowler from age 40, he was quick to make his presence felt in Melbourne metropolitan competitions. Club championships and a host of other accolades have been part of Greg’s journey over 23 years, but it has been his devotion and dedication to para bowls that has allowed him to strive towards national selection in the sport.
He has two Victorian Championship titles in B5/B6 – a category that recognises limited upper body limb function.
And when the call came after taking out his second state title in 2023 (he won his first title in 2019) he would represent Victoria at the nationals, it was great reward for his “stubbornness and pushing hard”.
And what a state debut it was, with Greg making the national singles final and being crowned runner up in the titles.
With no cure for FSHMD, Greg makes the most of limited mobility, a strong family unit and his great social network around Tatura and in the bowling fraternity.
Married to Julie and with two adult sons, Shane and Warren, Greg has prepared well for the future with a purpose-built home on a rural block in scooter distance of the shops and Hilltop Country Club where he plies his bowling prowess.
With the support of Intereach – the Partner in the Community for the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) – Greg has received important support with home modifications, assistive technology and home care.
“I am grateful for the support of Mel Elliott (Local Area Coordinator) – in fact I was her first ever interviewee so we have a great bond, and she does all she can to assist. It is great to have someone go into bat for you and support you.”
The Hilltop Country Club bowler is hoping his efforts at nationals will be rewarded with an Australian call up, and with the Para Olympics in 2024, he has his sights set on the highest honours.
“That is certainly my goal. I have the runs on the board, but what will be will be,” he said.
“I am very proud of what I have achieved at the nationals. The goal is to go as high as I can, I don’t put a ceiling on myself. If I can get there, I will bust my bum to get there, I am going to embrace my chance.
Most days, Greg takes his scooter into town and enjoys a coffee with a few “blokes” talking “sh*t”.
“We really have a great community here. The community of Tatura has been fantastic, they have really welcomed us,” Greg said.
And while Greg does need some assistance from time to time with tasks such as shopping, there is always someone to help… it is a two-way street.
“You have to give back. I help at the footy club, have been on the bowls club committee as well as the selection committee. I put in for my community because I get heaps out of it,” he said.
Great community and great support
Greg acknowledges FSHMD continues to take a toll on his body, but like his days working as a plumber, he looks for innovative ways to continue to thrive in the sport he loves.
While he has been a regular user of a bowling arm for the past number of years, his mobility has decreased. He now needs a scooter to go from end to end. To reduce any impact on the greens, he has adapted the wheels with rollers to ensure the bowling surface remains protected.
“I just push, I look for ways to adapt, push and change. The Country Club has been positive,” Greg said.