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by Tony Hall, Australian correspondent

We daren't try to edit our valient correspondent's report on the past seven days of the 16-day Australian National Championships, so we leave this third report in journal form and recommend it to you not just for its wealth of information, but for the light it sheds on the life of the correspondent, one of the most admired figures in our sport and one of the hardest workers in the cause of croquet in his native New South Wales. As an administrator, a coach, a referee, a friend, and a tough competitor, he is hard to beat. At the last minute, he was drafted to play on the Tasmanian team in the Interstate portion of the Nationals which follows the singles and doubles play, so we may have to wait some time for his next report. Read his serialized personal account, and put yourself into the middle of the Ozzies' big event - the Australian National Championships of 1997.


Group A, Eastwood: A single block of four dominated by Helene Thurston, who only lost a total of 20 points in her three games.

Group B, Eastwood: Two blocks of three, as were all the remaining groups. Merryl Garrod from WA surprised by beating New Zealand champion Madeline Hadwin in her block and then Robyn Pierce from Queensland, who won the other block.

Group C, Chatswood: Betty Belz, a former WCF World Championship competitor, won her block easily but went down to the other block winner, Diana McCready from WA.

Group D, Chatswood: Wendy King (SA) and Kathy Frey (Qld) won their blocks easily and Wendy won the final.

Group E, Hurstville: Creina Dawson (SA) and Chris Prater (NSW) came through without loss, and Creina beat Chris.

Group F, Hurstville: Shirley Carr (SA), fresh (?) from her wins in the Cammeray Classic, won her two games on time and then beat the other block winner, Jan Murdock (Qld).

Group G, Mosman: June Hutton and Cynthia Durbridge, both from Queensland, won their blocks, and June won the final.


Quarters: Helene Thurston beat June Hutton 26-16, Wendy King beat Creina Dawson 26-7, Shirley Carr beat Diana McCready 26-10, Claire Bamford beat Merryl Garrod 26-14.

Semis: Thurston beat King 26-10, Carr beat Bamford 26-8.

Final: Carr beat Thurston 26-11. The critical mistake was when Helene hit in a long shot from the East boundary to her partner ball only a few yards from the West boundary. She took off to Shirley`s balls in corner IV but rolled past them to go out by only a few inches.

I should have watched some of these matches but became embroiled in sorting out why my printer was sulking and refusing to print. I still don`t know but eventually brought it to heel!


At the same time as the Women's Singles, the Men's Singles was being fought out at Killara.

Quarters: Aggy Read, playing better than for some time, had Bob Jackson (NZ) down with five minutes to go when I arrived. Aggy made a mistake (stuck in rover, I think) with one clip on rover and one on 4-back. Bob, well known for his gentle strolling around the court, actually ran (I have witnesses!) onto the court with one clip on 1-back and one on 4-back. He played the forward ball, making 4-back and penult and laid up near 1-back. Aggy hit to a corner, leaving a ball near 3-back. Time was called and Bob only had to make three hoops to draw and four to win, with a short rush to his hoop. To our utter amazement, he bounced off 1-back from one foot directly in front!

To our utter amazement, he bounced off 1-back from one foot directly in front!

Greg Bury beat Brett Hewitt 26-10. Bruce Fleming beat Mark Kobelt 26TP-9. Mark Prater beat Max Merlin 26-17.

Semis: Aggy Read beat Greg Bury 26-1. This game started with both players very wary of the other. Greg kept hitting his balls from corner to corner and allowed Aggy to make five hoops, one by one, until Aggy left a half court shot that Greg quickly gobbled up but failed to make more than the single point. Mark Prater beat Bruce Fleming 26-0.

Final: With half an hour to go, Aggy had both his clips on the peg, he had pegged out one of Mark`s balls and the other was on 4-back. He should have finished quickly but at Tempe we waited and waited for the telephone to ring to tell us the result. It took the full half hour, and Aggy triumphed 26-25!

It has been announced that the winners of the Men's and Women's Singles would be automatic Australian selections for the WCF World Championships in Bunbury WA from 7 to 16 November this year. So Aggy Read and Shirley Carr will be two of those representing Australia.


It is now late afternoon on Wednesday and the Open Singles groups have been completed. The first six are simple blocks of four and the last ten are groups of six, each divided into two blocks of three. The round of sixteen will be played as a best-of-three tomorrow, quarter finals on Friday, semis on Saturday and the final, still best-of-three, on Sunday.

Block A, Tempe: Bob Jackson won all three games with one triple and Sandy Bartlem tripled against Judith Speers, who got to 23 against Bob.

Block B, Tempe: Colin Pickering won his three games with three triples. Terry Regan tripled against Leon Adams.

Block C, Tempe: Bruce Fleming won all three (with one triple, victim Tony Hall) after a tense last game against John Davis.

Group D, Eastwood: Brett Hewitt won all three with one triple. Stephen Meatheringham came second.

Group E, Eastwood: Greg Bury won all three with one triple.

Group F, Chatswood: Mark Kobelt won all three games.

Group G, Chatswood: This is the first of the six player groups. Max Merlin did two triples to win his block. In the other, Doug Amey beat Bruce Caldwell who beat Trevor Hamersley who beat Doug Amey. Trevor won on net points and then beat Max 26-20.

Group H, Chatswood: George Latham and Nick Macoun won their blocks, Nick beating George 26-9.

Group I, Hurstville: Jeff Newcombe won his block beating Aggy Read 23-22. Aggy also lost to Michael Bidencope 17-13. (But Aggy is off to Bunbury as a consequence of winning Men's Singles.)

The other block was won by Greg Burnes, who becomes an honorary Tasmanian next week. Jeff beat Greg 26-1. [Hall is referring here to the drafting of players from other states - including Hall himself - to play for Tasmania, who came up short in their representatives to the Interstates.]

Group J, Hurstville: Jerry Guest and Mark Prater both won their two games and Mark beat Jerry 20-15.

Group K, Mosman: Martin Clarke beat Dean Paterson and won both his games in one block and Chris Prater won her two games. Chris beat Martin 26-23.

Group L, Mosman: Ashley Faulkner won both his games with one triple. The other victim was Shirley Carr, who thus ends a marvellous run. Alan Sands won the other block and was beaten 26-2 by Ashley.

Group M, Sutherland: Barrie Chambers and Creina Dawson were the block winners, both with two wins, and Barrie beat Creina 26-18.

Group N, Sutherland: Helene Thurston and Wendy King were the block winners, Helene beating Wendy 26-12. (Helene has recently been elected President of the WA Croquet Association and won their Gold Medal. Not often are the best players also leading administrators.)

Group P, Strathfield: June Hutton won her two, including beating Madeline Hadwin of NZ 26-12, and John Eddes won his two. John beat June 17-15.

Group Q, Strathfield: Bryan Dawson (maker of Dawson balls) won both his games, including beating Rosemary Graham 18-13, and Ian Bassett won his two. Bryan beat Ian 26-7.

So the field for the Open is down to the last sixteen. Five of the NSW team are through, all four men and one woman, so NSW has most through. Queensland has three men, Western Australia two men and a woman and South Australia just two men. Victoria has only the one representative and the only New Zealander, Bob Jackson, is through and looking good.

Tomorrow we have the block round for the Plate, with all non-qualifiers included in sixteen groups, fourteen with four players and two with six.


I have been playing every day until today so have had no opportunity to report results of the Australian Open Singles Championship

Thursday, Round of Sixteen (all best-of-three from here on), Killara: Bob Jackson b Bryan Dawson 23-19, 25-17. Jeff Newcombe b Nick Macoun 26-4, 26-24. Sutherland: Colin Pickering b John Eddes 26TP-18, 26TP-0. Mark Prater b Trevor Hamersley 11-26, 26-2, 26-19. Mark Kobelt b Chris Prater 26-8, 17-26, 26TP-10. Chatswood: Helene Thurston b Bruce Fleming 26-22OTP, 0-26, 26-1. Brett Hewitt b Barrie Chambers 1-26TPO, 26TP-3, 26-12OTP. Greg Bury b Ashley Faulkner 26-1, 21-26, 26TP-10.

This last match was a titantic struggle, particularly the end of the last game.

Friday, Quarter-finals, Tempe: Greg Bury b Brett Hewitt 26-7, 26TP-7. Mark Kobelt b Helene Thurston 26-0, 26-3. Colin Pickering b Mark Prater 26-2, 26TP-1. Jeff Newcombe b Bob Jackson 26-9, 15-26, 24-23. This last match was a titanic struggle, particularly the end of the last game. Jeff pegged out his forward ball with his other clip on penult with twenty minutes to go when Bob was on 3 and penult. Bob got in and time was called while he was taking his back ball to the peg. He tried to rush his other ball back to penult to win but the peel failed and he had no option other than to peg out the forward ball.

Two dramas then ensued, one on the court where the players jockeyed for position, and one in the manager`s office where the Tournament Manager and Tournament Referee considered the different ways of resolving an impasse. On court the initial positions were Bob between penult and 4-back and Jeff on the South boundary with Jeff to play. He shot and missed to B baulk. Bob moved to the East Boundary, opposite penult. They both then moved only small distances for some time until Bob went a little way towards corner III. Jeff took position in front of penult wired from Bob by 4-back, a brave and accurate stroke. Bob tried to jump 4-back but his ball just touched the top of the hoop. Jeff ran penult for the win. There had been no need to resolve an impasse in the 34 minutes that play had continued after time, but a manager and referee are better prepared than before!

Saturday, Semi-finals, Tempe: Greg Bury b Jeff Newcombe 26-9, 0-26TP, 26-3. Colin Pickering b Mark Kobelt 22-26, 26TP-0, 26-3.

Sunday, Final, Tempe: Colin Pickering b Greg Bury 26TP-9, 26TP-0.


The Australian Open Plate event is held for all those eliminated from the Australian Open Singles Championship on the first day`s play. It is designed to give more games to players who have often travelled long distances to the championships. There were sixteen groups played on Thursday, the first fourteen with a single block of four and the last two with six players in two blocks. (This meant that with the eight courts being used for the first knockout round of the Open, there were 24 courts needed on this day - quite an effort!)

Group A, Eastwood: Steve Harden from Tamworth in Northern NSW won all three games.

Group B, Eastwood: Terry Regan lost to Creina Dawson but Shirley Carr beat Creina and Terry won the block on net points, 2 wins +25 to 2 wins +17.

Group C, Cheltenham: Wendy King won all her games.

Group D, Cheltenham: Stephen Meatheringham won his three games, all on time.

Group E, Mosman: With two withdrawals, Sandy Bartlem won a best-of-three contest 2-1.

Group F, Mosman: Rosemary Graham won three straight games.

Group G, Hurstville: Tony Hall won three straight games.

Group H, Hurstville: With one withdrawal, Simon Watkins won both games.

Group I, Tempe: Kathy Frey won her three games.

Group J, Tempe: With one withdrawal, Peter Tavender (Secretary ACA) won both his games, one close one against Greg Burnes, 25-24.

Group K, Tempe: With one withdrawal, Jerry Guest won both his games with the loss of a total of only three points.

Group L, Marrickville: John Philpott won three games.

Group M, Cammeray: Another withdrawal saw Aggy Read win his two games.

Group N, Cammeray: Alan Sands won three.

Group P, Manly: George Latham won two straight games in his block and Martin Clarke won two. George beat Martin.

Group Q, Manly: Max Merlin won two and beat Betty Belz who won two in her block.

Friday, Killara: Round of Sixteen: Max Merlin b Steve Harden 26-20, Simon Watkins b Kathy Frey 26-15. Quarter-final: Max b Simon 26-14.

Eastwood: Round of Sixteen: Aggy Read b Steve Meatheringham 26-21, John Philpott b Sandy Bartlem 26-1. Quarter-final: John 26-18.

Hurstville: Round of Sixteen: Alan Sands b Wendy King 26-16, Jerry Guest b Rosemary Graham on forfeit. Quarter-final: Jerry 23-22.

Sutherland: Round of Sixteen: Tony Hall b Peter Tavender 26-1, Terry Regan b George Latham 26-16. Quarter-final: Tony 26-3.

Saturday, Tempe, Semi-finals, best-of-three: Max Merlin b John Philpott 26-18, 26-11. Jerry Guest b Tony Hall 16-26, 26-11, 26-24. We both "lost" this last game several times. Towards the end, after Jerry pegged out one of my balls, with Jerry peg and peg and my ball for rover, I hit in across the court at his balls on the far boundary supposedly wired by the peg. My ball missed the peg by a small amount and hit the edge of a ball. I jammed in rover to lose the match.

Sunday, Tempe, Final: Max Merlin b Jerry Guest 26-18, 26-11.


Both the Open final and the Plate final finished before noon, having started at 9.00am. We set up a Japanese Gateball court and played some lighthearted instructional games while others had some practice until our Patron, His Excellency The Honorable Gordon Samuels, AC, Governor of New South Wales, arrived at 4.00pm.

A retired opera singer and croquet player, Elizabeth Allen (NSW), then led us in singing the National Anthem, "Advance Australia Fair". Dr. John Castle welcomed our patron and he addressed the hundred or so gathered for the occasion. Then the Governor received the Presidents of the State Associations who were present and presented the winners of the state gold medals with their medals. Dr. Ian Reid, President ACA spoke, welcoming everyone to the championships.

We set up a Japanese Gateball court and played some lighthearted instructional games until the arrival our our Patron, His Excellency The Honorable Gordon Samuels, AC, Governor of New South Wales.

Captains of state teams then called out and introduced to the gathering their teams and drew a number from the Eire Cup, which is the trophy competed for over the next week between teams of four men and four women from each state. The draw decides who plays whom, on which courts and on which days.

At the conclusion of formal proceedings we had tea or coffee and the bar was open for a few drinks. The official photographer took photos of each team in their colourful state blazers. As usual, the bright red South Australian jackets won the day, although the light blue of NSW, the maroon of Queensland and the green of Tasmania did compete. The Victorian navy blue and WA black seemed a little sedate in comparison. At about 5.00pm the Vice-Regal party departed with a minimum of formality, leaving us to get on with the party.

Ultimately, Colin Pickering has triumphed again, with the established players showing their class.

It is now 11.30pm on Sunday night, and I will do my best to get this off to you tomorrow. I`m sorry it`s a bit fractured - I`m very tired due to so much play - would that I had more!


I arrived at Cheltenham yesterday morning to find that burglars had ripped out the telephone system for the whole suburb, trashed the clubhouse and stolen $2000 from the safe. I had to play until 8pm, then had a meeting until 10pm, got home 11pm. This morning I was again at Cheltenham with no phones. I`m now at Tempe, and you will soon have the big report.

PPS: I`ll try to put together a report on the Interstate Cup, but have little time for it when playing, administering and enjoying it all, on this wonderful day for croquet: sunny, 24 degrees, gentle zephyr breezes...

Best regards, Tony

As the croquet world waits with bated breath for the next report from our valient correspondent, we can only wish him well in the Interstates as one of two non-Tasmanian men drafted to fill out their four-man, four-woman state team. Still to come are reports on the Interstate team results and the Silver Medal results, contested among the six individual state champions.

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