The early days of croquet in South Australia.

Fellow Retiree and friend, Pharmacist Ralph Worthington and his wife Jill introduced me soon after I retired to the mysteries of croquet. Skilled player Aileen Mehaffey became my coach and Mentor at the strong Norwood Croquet Club on Portrush Road in Adelaide. At 65 I was never going to excel at the sport, but I enjoyed it and the social contacts. It kept me active, both physically and mentally, demanding constant focus on strategy and its execution.

After moving to a retirement home in the Adelaide Hills satellite township of Mount Barker, I transferred my membership to the local club.

This post is the result of a desire to learn of the beginnings of the croquet game in South Australia. I am indebted to the Croquet SA website for the following historical information.

South Australia was settled 28 December 1836 when 176 free settlers including Captain John Hindmarsh subsequently the First Governor of the new colony arrived on board the HMS Buffalo at Glenelg.

They and subsequent settlers brought with them aspects of the genteel English lifestyle they had enjoyed in their homeland.  Not surprisingly croquet was a past-time they soon introduced to the new settlements, the earliest being in the Barossa Valley in 1867.

 http://www.croquetsa.com.au/?page_id=62

History

CROQUET IN SOUTH AUSTRALIA 1867 — 2013

Croquet was brought to our state with the early English gentry. They wanted to keep their lifestyle and interests as they had in England.

Many of these people were able to build substantial homes in the Fitzroy, St. Peters, Medindie and Walkerville areas, just north of the Adelaide. A lot of these homes had their own courts, so the game was a social event.

Some of the larger families moved and bought pastoral leases in the fertile Angaston and Kapunda areas. Crops, wine and mining was very profitable.

The earliest photos we have are of a group of players in a paddock on a hill at Angaston on New Year’s Day 1867, photo below.

Recent research has revealed that it was Angaston, not Kapunda that had the first club in S.A. Croquet has been recorded as being played in the town as early as 1850.

Angaston club was officially formed in early 1867 and was played at various venues until land for a Sports Park was given to the town by Mr. George Fife Angus, whom the area was named after. This was in late 1867. The club membership was by ballot. The club celebrated its Centenary in 1967 and due the drop in membership closed in 1970 after 103 years.

Kapunda was the second club formed in 1868. Photo below of Kapunda club members.

This was closely followed by The North Adelaide Club. Membership list of this club were the who’s who of society at that time. Other than a list of the founding members and rules there is no more information of this club and it is said that when the president returned to England that the club folded after one year.

1890 saw two courts set up behind the main grandstand at the Adelaide Oval. This is where the games between clubs were played and plans were made to form our Association. These courts were used up to late 1925.

Mr T.N. Stephens was the instigator in the formation of the South Australian Croquet Association in 1917. He approached the City of Adelaide Council and obtained a part lease of Park 17 in the South Park lands edging onto Hutt Rd. South Terrace Club had previously in 1911 been allotted their area on the East side of the park. This also was obtained by Mr. T.N.Stephens.

1926 saw the first four courts set up and also the club house which was named “CROQUET HOUSE”. The opening was held in July that year.

In 1926 there were 47 registered clubs and the number was still growing.

A newspaper cutting records that in 1934 there were 1,300 players, six of whom were men. These were the first men to join the Association.

Both women and men have excelled in the game over the years. The Association and Golf Croquet interstate competitions are held annually and are in South Australia every few years. South Australia has a team of men and women representing our state in both Association and Golf croquet every year. South Australian players have also represented Australia in overseas tournaments. The McRobertson Shield is one of those.

In April 2012 we were honoured to host The 13th World Croquet Federation Association Croquet World Championships in Adelaide, they were a great success, and many local and interstate players and members of the community came to watch the best players in action.

Our School and Disabled Programs are very rewarding and we try to have Primary School Championship Games each year. The secondary school also compete in their program for the Championship.

Deaf, sight impaired, and brain injury folk love to play Golf Croquet it is a real treat for them to be able to play.

Coaching and Refereeing personnel give regular sessions and also travel to the rural areas when requested. This is very important to keep up the standard of our game.Although our membership is not what it was in 1934 and a few clubs have closed we are still a very active Association. At present there are 1,071 members and 43 clubs. Below is a photo of our clubhouse on Hutt Road as it is now.

This is only a brief outline of the history and activities of our Association, but will give you a little idea of our Croquet Life here in South Australia.

Janet Eckert
Croquet Archivist

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