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It's England's Fulford Over Mulliner in the 1997 World Championship Finals
by Hartley Slater [CROQUET WORLD exclusive]
Posted November 17, 1997

RELATED LINKS: for daily results and player profiles:
New Official WCF World Rankings
Archival Interview with Robert Fulford
World Croquet Federation Website
WCW Results Index (for detailed block results)
Western Australia Croquet Association

On the eighth day of the World Croquet Federation's 1997 World Championship in Bunbury, Australia, Bruce Flemming defeated Helene Thurston to win the Plate event for Australia - one day after they had eliminated Americans Jacques Fournier and Mik Mehas in the semi-finals. And in the main event, croquet's greatest champion of the 90's took back his crown as well as his accustomed place at the top of the world rankings. Once again, it's official: Robert Fulford of England is the best player in the world. Hartley Slater gives CROQUET WORLD ONLINE MAGAZINE an exclusive play-by-play of the superb finals match.

Game One: Fulford Grabs the Lead

England's Robert Fulford regained croquet's official World Championship title in a 3/1 finals against Stephen Mulliner.
Mulliner goes behind 3-back, not to the boundary.

Fulford puts in a Duffer tice, from B baulk.

Mulliner fires at it, missing, and going to 5.

Fulford makes a double of the balls in the green and hits the ball at 5, putting that to 2, with a rush on the tice to the fourth ball. He has a break set up. After 3-back he sets a standard leave.

Mulliner picks up the centre ball and fires from B baulk on Fulford, missing.

Fulford rushes over to the ball at 2, starting his second break and trying to pick up the ball in corner IV after 3, but going out.

Mulliner has a rush on Fulford's ball out of corner IV, and puts that ball to 2, coming back using the ball in the field to Fulford's pioneer at 4, getting a rush on that to 1. He now has a break, which he completes without major incident. (One thing, however: he puts the forward ball on the wire of hoop 6, after 2, which looks a bit tricky; but he has a ball at 4 anyway, and after 3 he just bombards the ball at 6 free in a croquet shot). After 3-back he sets a kind of standard leave - the ball at the peg ended up adjacent to it, giving Fulford a clear shot from the ball near 2, and his balls are separated along the east boundary towards corner IV.

Fulford takes his ball at 2 (which is for 4-back) and fires on Mulliner's balls from B baulk, hitting the one near corner IV. He puts that into the field, between 3 and 4, rushing the other down the boundary, and rolling for his point. He goes right to the stick, leaving one of Mulliner's balls at 2, the other at rover (it looks like he might have preferred it slightly into the hoop). He sits up behind 3-back himself, with a rush to 4, his point.

Mulliner, with great care, plays the ball at rover where it lies onto one of Fulford's balls, but he misses. Fulford makes 9 hoops and pegs out. Game to Fulford, Match score1-0.

Game Two: Yet Another Two-Ball Contest

Fulford goes behind 3-back, but not to the boundary.

Mulliner fires at this ball from A baulk, missing.

Fulford shoots Mulliner from B baulk, missing, and going into corner IV.

Mulliner take aim on Fulford's ball in the corner, missing.

Fulford plays his ball in the corner, stopping Mulliner's ball to 2, and going to the other two balls. He gets a good chance of a rush to 1, but it falls short; he has to roll, and the hoop shot is long. He goes through to 2, though, and after roqueting the ball there he puts it to 3 before approaching 2 using the other two balls. After 3-back he sets a standard leave.

Mulliner lifts the ball at 2 and fires on Fulford from A baulk, hitting. He starts on a TPO, with only one incident: he gets the rover peel into the hoop before 3 back, but an attempt to bombard it right through after 3-back does not work, since he is behind the hoop himself, and has to put the peelee clear in front again. He peels rover on the way to penult, though. After the peg-out, Fulford's remaining ball is near the peg, and Mulliner takes one ball into corner II. But taking off to corner IV (?) with his playing ball, it hits the peg! We have a two-ball game, again, as with Maugham in the semi-final the day before.

Fulford takes contact from Mulliner in corner II, taking off for 1, and laying up in front.

Mulliner shoots to the south boundary near corner IV.

Fulford makes his point, over-running the hoop approach to 2.

Mulliner goes to position at 1.

Fulford retires to the north boundary, near corner III.

Mulliner approaches nearer his first hoop.

Fulford waives his shot.

This scenario is repeated twice more (!)

Finally Mulliner decides to make his hoop, ending past 2; he then shoots at Fulford and hits, splitting Fulford to 1, and getting a fair position at 2. He makes 2, and gains an angled position at 3.

Fulford claims a lift, but does not take one. He goes for position at 2, ending long.

Mulliner makes his third hoop and gets a good position at 4.

Fulford scores hoop 2, getting an angled position at 3.

Mulliner makes 4 with a good approach to 5.

Fulford makes 3, and goes through to the south boundary; he shoots at Mulliner, but misses.

Mulliner makes 5, but over-runs 6. He wires himself from Fulford.

Fulford gets position at 4.

Mulliner gets position at 6.

Fulford makes 4, and gets position at 5.

Mulliner makes 6, going over to the east boundary opposite 6 afterwards.

Fulford makes 5, not even reaching the peg; he shoots at Mulliner and hits him. He then rolls the balls to 6, but has a very long hoop, with Mulliner behind it. Fulford makes the hoop! Then he uses Mulliner's ball to score 1-back, but runs on well past Mulliner, and past 2-back; he lays up before 2-back.

Mulliner gets position at 1-back.

Fulford makes 2-back, getting an angled position at 3-back.

Mulliner makes 1-back, but not position at 2-back, so he retires to the west boundary opposite 5.

Fulford improves his position at 3-back. Mulliner approaches 2-back.

Fulford makes 3-back, securing a nice position at 4-back.

Mulliner scores 2-back, getting good position at 3-back.

Fulford shoots 4-back, gaining a fair position at penult.

Mulliner runs 3-back to near Fulford, roquets him, then rolls back to 4-back, but without getting an easy hoop. He makes it, nevertheless, and has a rush on Fulford. He splits nicely to penult, and gets a rush to rover. He makes rover and pegs out.

Game to Mulliner. Match score: 1-1.

Game Three: Fulford Gets the Edge

Fulford goes behind 3-back.

Mulliner shoots fires him and misses, from A baulk.

Fulford fires from B baulk, hitting. He goes round to 4-back on three balls; in the leave, the three balls are a yard or two one from one another, and fairly in line with the stick, near the middle of the west boundary. Fulford's balls are on either side of Mulliner's ball.

Shooting from A baulk, Mulliner hits, starting on a TPO again, and completing it without incident. (Just one interesting thing to note: at rover he peels Mulford, but uses another ball to help make the hoop, putting that ball in front of the peeled ball, presumably to stop him hitting the peeled ball after the hoop - a nice touch!) On the leave Mulliner has Fulford's remaining ball near rover, one of his balls is right in corner II, the other just out from corner IV.

Fulford takes contact from the ball in corner II, taking off to the other ball, but going out near it.

Mulliner touches that ball, then takes off to his partner ball, giving himself a rush to 1.

Fulford shoots right into corner IV.

Mulliner starts on a two-ball break, making 1, then laying up.

Fulford goes into corner I.

Mulliner makes 2 and 3, and then wires himself from Fulford (almost) behind 4.

Fulford goes to just out of corner III.

Mulliner makes 4, then 5, with a rush to Fulford. He rushes F out , but does not get very close to 6, so he stops Fulford away to 2-back, getting good position at 6, but not attempting the hoop (?), instead returning to his partner in corner III.

Fulford shoots at Mulliner and hits. He sets off on a three-ball break, and pegs out. Game to Fulford. 2-1.

Game Four: Fulford Survives the TPO

Fulford goes behind 3 back, but not to the boundary.

Mulliner shoots near corner II.

Fulford goes behind his other ball, with a rush straight across the green.

Mulliner fires on Fulford from B baulk, missing, and going into corner IV.

Fulford rushes across the green, but does not attempt a distant hoop 1, instead giving himself a rush to it, from near corner I.

Mulliner M moves his ball from corner II to corner III.

Fulford scores hoop 1, getting a rush not quite into corner III, then a rush on the ball there to 2, making 2. He rushes over beyond 3, picking up his ball near corner II, and makes 3. He goes round on three balls, not picking up the fourth ball (in corner IV) until he is bound for 3-back. After 3 back he sets a 2-4 leave.

Mulliner lifts the ball at 4, and fires from B baulk, hitting in. He starts again on a TPO (which is now entirely without incident!) leaving, after the peg-out, Fulford's remaining ball between 1 and 2, and going into corner II with one ball, behind 3-back with the other.

Fulford takes contact from the ball behind 3-back, rolling to 1. He has a long hoop, but he makes it, going through to the north boundary. He shoots at Mulliner's ball in corner II, but misses it.

Mulliner croquet Fulford to 2 and gets behind what was Fulford's pilot at 1. He makes 1, but cannot get the ball on the other side, and so retreats to a near point on the yardline.

Fulford tries to hit the ball in the field, but instead collides with hoop six high up (after trying to jump it?) ending near Mulliner's ball on the yardline.

Mulliner scores hoop 2 and then hoop 3. But he misses the return ball (which is Fulford's) afterward running 3.

Fulford hit's Mulliner's ball, which is on B baulk. He gets an extremely long rush on Mulliner's pioneer at 4, and magically sends it straight to 2 (the shot of the match?) He makes 12 points.

Game Fulford. Match to Fulford, 3-1. World Championship to Fulford.

What a magnificent couple of days - croquet in heaven!

[Hartley Slater is Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, at the University of Western Australia in Perth. His Website is:]

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