Croquet, the sport of Victorian ladies and gentleman of leisure, has survived in only four nations, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa.
Croquet, the sport of Victorian ladies and gentleman of leisure, has survived in only four nations, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa. It reached the peak of its popularly as a sport on the smooth rectory lawns of England in the last century, and although the game is the same gentle pursuit of the black and blue or the red and yellow ball, the atmosphere has changed.
At the English Open Championships at Hurlingham in London on Monday (12 August) the competition was keen. Forty-four players had entered, many of them ladies. Not surprisingly, all the visitors, bar one lone South African, were from Australia and New Zealand.
By the end of the day, half the players had been eliminated. The games will go on, probably until Saturday. The prize won by whoever becomes champion is an engraved cup on loan until the next championship.
Although there was no denying that most of the small band of followers, reclining in deck chairs, and shaded by floppy white hats, were entering their twilight years, the players themselves were much younger. The average age is about thirty, but some of the best known players are much older. Jack Read, one of the two national team members from Australia in the championships is seventy. He was knocked out on the first day however, by his young British opponent, William Prichard. The other Australian team member at eighteen is the youngest entrant.
All the New Zealand players entered in the championships, are members of the national team. From Monday's results, they look promising. Allen Anderson of New Zealand beat Robin Godby of Great Britain in one of the games we filmed. His score plus 16, minus 17, plus 12. Anderson's father is also in the New Zealand team.
SYNOPSIS: On a quite lawn in London on Monday exponents of that essentially English sport, croquet, met to contest the annual Open Championships.
The sport has survived in only three countries apart from Britain - all of them former English colonies. New Zealand, Australia and South Africa.
Robin Godby, playing here, is one of the British entrants.
Most of the followers, as one would expect, are not young. But the players themselves have an average age of about thirty. Allen Anderson from New Zealand, is a promising younger player.
As a leisure pursuit, croquet reached its peak in the England of last century. The most popular venue was the rectory lawn where young ladies and gentleman idled away their time amiably. Enthusiasts of the sport however insist that to play it well, not only is good coordination essential, but it also needs the qualities of a good chess player.
The Championships are based on elimination games, and by the end of the day, half the entrants in the singles had been knocked out. William Prichard of Britain played well in his first round game against Read of Australia.
Jack Read, at seventy, is the oldest competitor in the championship. He's one of the two national Australian team members competing. His team-mate, at eighteen, is the youngest entrant.
All the players are amateurs, and the only thing they stand to win is a cup, for a year, with their name engraved on it.
For Jack Read, this glory was not to be his. He was beaten by Prichard by plus seventeen, plus twenty-four.