Melbourne is a very long way to travel to play croquet but combining the trip with visits to Hong Kong, Sydney and Tokyo made the journey worthwhile. The event was played at the smart new Victorian Croquet Centre at Cairnlea, about half an hour’s drive from the city centre. Twelve good lawns and a purpose built, spacious clubhouse with kitchen, manager’s office, changing rooms with showers and lockers, internet access and a well stocked bar made it ideal for hosting a large event. (The last 2 items vital for the travelling support).
Play started on Sunday and despite being warned that Melbourne’s weather could be erratic I wasn’t really prepared for driving persistent rain and freezing winds coming across the plain. The morning was only salvaged by a close 7-6 win in the third over Pam Gentle of the NSW state team. Things improved again when I discovered that all sodden clothes could be put on the stairs and they would re-appear an hour or so later completely dry. This was indicative of the management of the championships which ensured we were given useful advice on where to stay, transported everywhere and good lunches appeared every day. (The kitchen supremo turned out to be Shirley Hallinan, with whom I had won the doubles in Herbert Park in 1992, when she and her husband Joe were touring Ireland).
4 wins and 2 losses in my block ensured qualification for the 32 person knockout but at this stage luck deserted me. I was up against Alix Verge, a Sydney player with a devastating shot and a mission to win. Not even Iman, Dublin’s winner, could stop her in the final which she won on the 13th hoop in the fifth with a bouncing jump shot from near the boundary that has gone down in history. The normally happy Egyptian contingent was understandably gloomy but it was good to see the event becoming more competitive and to see the general standard of play improving – this powered by the huge Australian enthusiasm which had resulted in the original 40 entries being increased to 56. Australia also won the plate event. Anne Quinn (with Waterford/Cork ancestry she could probably play for Ireland) beating one of the young Kiwi players in the final.
The weather improved during the week and we had some very hot days and also a pretty good thunder and lightning storm which stopped play temporarily. I managed, briefly, to get my hands on the Eire cup – Australia’s much prized interstate cup – presented by Bertram T. O’Reilly of Ballynamonte, Carrickmines in 1937 and currently in the hands of Victoria State.
Link to some photos and videos of the championships
Link to Championship results
Many thanks to the ACA and VCC for a great week of croquet and the Australian players, club members and volunteers for making us feel so welcome.