Nelson’s family of indoor bowlers Johnny, Freddie and Fred Persico. Photo: Jonty Dine.

Persico family bowling over competition


Even before Freddie Persico’s hand was big enough to hold a bowl, the fourth-generation star was asking to play competitively.

At just seven-years-old, Freddie is already following in the footsteps of his father, grandfather and great grandfather, as he recently became the youngest player in Nelson history to win a centre title.

A team consisting of three generations of Persicos, together with Shirley Deerness from the Wakapuaka Club, won the Nelson Centre Champion-of- Champion Fours last month.

Fred, 66, Johnny, 39, and Freddie, 7, always had control of the final to run out comfortable winners 15-8.

Fred says his grandson was brilliant during his debut.

“Here was a seven-year-old who played seven hours of bowls and didn’t get bored or miss a beat.”

The historic title win saw several milestones reached with Johnny winning his third gold star for fifteen titles while Fred won his twentieth title to earn a fourth gold star.

It had been almost twenty years since three generations of Persicos had taken centre stage at an indoor bowls competition, after Fred’s father Giovanni retired in the early 2000s.

The family has a proud legacy in the region with Giovanni the first in Nelson to win the New Zealand title in 1973, which Johnny and Fred went on to win three times each.

Now, with the latest Persico off the production line, the legacy is set to continue and there may be more to come.

“My wife wants my other son (Lorenzo, 5) to start playing too so she can have the weekend off,” jokes Johnny.

Freddie has become a popular figure in bowls circles.

“Because he’s the youngest player in Nelson everyone makes a big fuss over him, they are just so pleased to see someone of his age playing.”