Barrie Lester announces international retirement

by Val Febbo on October 15, 2023

Barrie Lester, one of the nation’s longest serving Right at Home Jackaroos, has announced his retirement from international bowls effective immediately.

The 41-year-old labels timing as the key reason for his decision, having extended his career in the green and gold regalia for nearly two decades.

Lester made the announcement in front of his peers at the lunch break of the 2023 Australian Sides Championships on Sunday, citing the excitement for a new chapter as the reason for his decision.

He revealed that the thought of hanging up the boots at an international level has been bubbling away in his mind since early in 2023.

“A feeling that I have exhausted as much time and energy as possible in to something I absolutely love and have passion for,” he said.

“There is now the excitement of more quality time at home and trying to start a family in the near future.

“It first came in to my head when I missed selection for this year’s World Bowls Championships, and then more recently when the news the next tournament in Hong Kong China won’t be going ahead.

“As an athlete you’re always training and aspiring to play in the next major event and with the international calendar so quiet the next three to four years it was enough to sway me this way.”

Commencing his career in Victoria before moving to Queensland in 2019, Lester has represented Australia with distinction on 252 occasions since his debut at the Tri-Nations in 2006, with his final cap being a gold medal winning performance in the men’s triples at the 2023 Multi-Nations event on the Gold Coast in March.

Lester has been a pillar of consistency in his time within the national program, being selected for three Commonwealth Games in 2006, 2018 and 2022, as well as the 2016 World Bowls Championships.

The Bendigo-born product earned four medals at the games, three silver and a bronze, while also accruing two silver at the World Bowls Championships.

Lester said he felt an enormous sense of pride when it came to his international longevity, but an honour that stood out just as much as his participation on the green at major events was one that came at the closing ceremony of Birmingham 2022.

“Representing Australia at three Commonwealth Games across a 16-year timespan has been a real highlight for me and I am super proud of my longevity and consistency over that period,” he said.

“On top of that, being given the honour of receiving the Commonwealth Games Federation Flag at the 2022 closing ceremony in Birmingham for the entire Australian team was an absolute honour.”

That 2006 Tri-Nations at Darebin was a landmark step for Lester, selected by Cameron Curtis to make his international debut in his then home state in the lead up to the Commonwealth Games.

It was the moment that the 24-year-old had long dreamed of and all he wanted to do was make his family proud having sadly lost his mother a few years prior.

“I felt that I had achieved a life-long goal to represent my country and that I had made my family proud, as I had only just lost my mum around two years prior,” Lester said.

“To be a Jackaroo meant everything to me and it always will.

“There were definitely some nerves and sense of being out of my comfort zone when I played my first game, it was a moment where I needed to pinch myself to make sure it was actually happening.

“For my last game to be winning a gold at the Multi-Nations was a thrill, I’m glad I could finish on a high and sing the national anthem one last time.”

Lester has since seen an evolution in Bowls Australia’s (BA) high performance program and has embraced every part of it, seeing constant development as the best path forward.

“I was always an athlete growing up and played any sport that I could, so when the sport of bowls introduced high performance around the time I debut for Australia, I was all for it,” he said.

“Having a program where there are professionals around you and services available to improve your performance to further extend your career is for the better.

“High performance has really shown in the Jackaroos’ results; if you prepare well and innovate with good planning, you can be the best in the world.”

When it comes to the future, the four-time Commonwealth Games medallist will still be seen around the national scene as he aims to continue to represent Queensland and the various other teams that he has forged a strong relationship with.

In addition, Lester strives to grow his coaching career and business, while also hoping to dabble in various media commitments within the sport.

“From a bowls perspective I love playing all the major events, so I’m really keen to be a valued member of the Queensland State Team and the Bowls Premier League with Dandenong Club,” he said.

“I’m really focused on my own coaching business that will hopefully take me all over the world delivering high performance clinics.

“My bowls show “Barefoot with BLEST” is not far away from being released, and I really enjoyed commentating the recent World Bowls Championships, so who knows, there could be more commentary opportunities.”

From national coaches to mentors, Lester has not forgotten the countless figures that have had an enormous impact on his bowls career, while his family has provided constant support from a time long before he strode out to Darebin for the first time.

John Snell OAM has always been my coach and mentor and really shon light on what it takes to be an elite athlete in the sport of bowls, and learning from him and his experiences really did motivate me to chase my dreams,” he said.

“My international coaches Cameron CurtisSteve Glasson OAM and most recently Gary Willis have had huge influence on my career as an athlete and as a person. 

“I have to thank my family, unfortunately both of my parents have passed but without them providing me with the opportunities and believing in me, my career wouldn’t have happened.

“My brothers and sisters all my life have backed me and supported me all the way, they have been a huge motivation as I’ve wanted to make them proud.

“Finally, my wife Miranda has been a pillar of strength through the highs and lows of being an athlete.

“She has provided unwavering support and shared the passion I have to be committed to my goals, and I’m forever grateful for that.”

Lester will never forget the clubs and sponsors who have and continue to support him through his endeavours both on and off the green.

“To the clubs I started at, Wedderburn and then Lakes Entrance, I’ll never forget my first few years starting out.

“Without the support of employment and sponsorship at Lakes Entrance Bowls Club, I wouldn’t have been able to go on the career path that bowls had provided. 

“I need to thank my manager Carlie Green-Medina at Agency X, Aero Bowls’ Sharon and Walter Jacobs for their tremendous support, MakMax, Apia, Steve’s Liquor and Boomerangz Footwear. 

“Finally, I also want to thank all my Jackaroo teammates and staff for sharing the privilege and memories together and thank all the opposition for all the great battles.”

Bowls Australia congratulates and applauds Barrie Lester on a magnificent international career.