The Port Macquarie Croquet Club will celebrate its 60th birthday on December 4 – a major milestone for the organisation. Club President, John Hincks, fills us in on the history of the club and tells us more about the birthday celebrations planned for the big day.
Hi John. How long have you been President of the Port Macquarie Croquet Club?
I have been the President of the Port Macquarie Croquet Club since July this year.
Give us a brief history of how and when the club was actually established …
The recorded history of the club begins on 19 September 1951, when a public meeting was convened in the Municipal Council Chambers. A group of Port Macquarie residents resolved to form a croquet club and to petition Council for the construction of a green at the eastern end of Westport Park. Four initial donations totalling five pounds 2 shillings was received.
The first inaugural meeting of the club took place on December 4, 1951, where a President, four office bearers and four committee members were named. The first President was Mrs G.M. Pountney. The minutes from this meeting record that The Council estimated the cost of constructing the lawn at 540 pounds – and it was resolved to commence fundraising immediately towards this cost.
The club was originally called The West Port Croquet Club, and by 1953, plans were well underway to complete construction of the lawn and to establish a clubhouse. The club held its official opening at its new lawn and clubhouse on October 27, 1953. One hundred and sixty people attended the opening, with the Mayor, Mr Brownlow, cutting the ribbon and turning the key in the clubhouse door.
Only women were allowed to be members; men were admitted for the first time in 1960.
Since then, the club has become one of the largest croquet clubs in NSW.
How is the club planning to celebrate its 60th birthday?
On December 4, the club will celebrate the 60th anniversary of its foundation.
Members of the club, along with members of Forster, Gloucester and Taree clubs, will come together for a day of sport and fun. There will be novelty events, mini-competitions and an anniversary lunch.
The players will be dressed in clothes that resemble as closely as possible the clothes of the 1950s. Long skirts, long trousers etc. will be the order of the day, although the women will not have to hit the ball side-saddle. In the 1950s, this was considered the only proper way for women to hit the ball !
For those of us unfamiliar with the game of croquet, please tell us about the gameplay and rules …
There are 2 main types of croquet: the original game, now known as Association Croquet; and a more recent innovation, called Golf Croquet.
The object in both games is to send a ball through the hoops in a pre-determined order.
In Association Croquet, the player is on the lawn alone and must manoeuvre the balls, within strict limitations, to send his ball through as many hoops as he can until his turn ends (similar to billiards).
In Golf Croquet, the player and his opponent take turns to hit a ball and can either score or can prevent the other from scoring by blocking his ball or by hitting it away.
The club is called a mallet, originally made from wood, but now many are made of synthetic material with graphite shafts. There are penalties for hitting the wrong ball or damaging the grass etc. and there are rules of etiquette (no sledging). Both games are games of strategy; players who have experience of snooker and putting become proficient at the game quite easily.
How many members does the club currently have?
There are over 80 members of the club at the moment. Most of them are women and most are of retirement age, but the game (like bowls) is being increasingly played by younger people.
There is no minimum or maximum age; anyone can play. In fact, croquet is one of the few games where men and women of any age can play against each other on an equal footing. Skill – not youth or strength or speed – is the determining factor.
What days do club members meet to play?
Association Croquet is played on Wednesdays and Saturdays; Golf Croquet is played on Mondays, Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Thursdays are set aside for the greenkeeper’s maintenance program.
What regular competitions do club members participate in each year, and what have been some of the recent results?
As a club, we take part in the Mid North Coast competition in both games.
This year, our club won both competitions against teams from Forster, Gloucester and Taree. We hold an annual carnival in both games; players from as far away as Sydney, Dubbo and the Hunter Valley come every year to take part. I might add that the Association carnival has been held every year since 1956.
Individually, members travel all over the state to take part in the carnivals of other clubs. In recent years, members have been very successful, winning handicap events, including a state title and doing well in open events, including high placings in NSW Division 1 championships.
What are some of the benefits of playing croquet?
As I said, most of our members are of retirement age. We provide gentle but healthy exercise in a beautiful environment – the sort of exercise which is difficult for them to find elsewhere. But that is only one of the benefits.
Mid-morning and mid-afternoon breaks for refreshments take place every day. The social interaction among the members is very important. One hears of so many older people going for months or years without contact with the world outside their homes.
The club provides a place where men and women from very different backgrounds can mix freely and equally. Those who travel to other clubs very often meet the same people every year, and many carnivals have a friendly, almost family, atmosphere.
Is the club actively looking for new members at the moment – and is any experience necessary for those interested in joining?
The laws of attrition mean that we are always looking for new members. Probus clubs and U3A groups have been introduced to croquet this year, but word of mouth remains the major link to new members.
No experience is necessary to join. Club coaches will teach the basics for the first few weeks, and then the players are introduced gradually to general play – normally with an experienced player for the first few games, to help them with the rules and with their strategy.
Where can people find out more information about the club?
More information can be obtained from our Secretary Bridget Earle on 6582 3232 or from me on 6583 5358 – or just meet us in our clubhouse on Buller Street any Monday morning. We are quite friendly!
Interview by Jo Atkins.