Nowra Croquet Club celebrates 100 years of playing ‘the thought sport’, a nasty game for nice people

Those who play croquet say it is 15 per cent skill and 85 per cent psychology, an aggressive game played by nice people with a smile on their face.

The nice people of Nowra Croquet Club celebrate a century of play this year, and today launch a book acknowledging and celebrating 100 years since the club’s inception.

Secretary of Nowra Croquet Club, Karen James, instigated the production of the book.

It proudly highlights a unique feature of the club — being largely women-only for a majority of its history.

Karen James holds a photograph depicting women from the past century. (ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

But it is not a ladies club anymore.

“Our first male, as is shown in the book, did not become a member until 1982, so that’s a long time of it being [only for] ladies, and of course they played in long skirts.”

“Ladies played to the side with their mallet because it was unseemly for a woman to push a mallet between her legs.”

Patience, persistence, and a playful spirit are required for this hard-hitting game.

“It’s called ‘the thought sport’ and that’s particularly important for us older people,” said 82-year-old player David Knott.

The Nowra Croquet Club and members play a big role in Mr Knott’s life, who joined the club five years ago and plays frequently.

“It’s a very strategic game and there is a lot of thought in it,” Mr Knott said.

“You’re looking to outsmart your opponent. You’re looking for the position of their balls versus the position of your own balls. You have to assess what stroke you are going to make for the benefit of scoring that hoop.

“The art is moving the opponents’ balls as far away as possible.”

“You have to think and you’re exercising all the time. That’s the important thing — you keep moving.”

People playing croquet
Members of the Nowra Croquet Club play in all weather. (ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

Pam Harrison started playing croquet when she was 89.

She is now 91 and not only does she love it, according to club members she is also quite good.

“You can still play croquet with a walker, you just have to leave it there for a moment while you grab your mallet and hit the ball, then come back to your walker,” Ms Harrison said.

“I love it. Anybody who has got a walker and thinks they should come, just come, because you’ll be made very welcome.”

Margaret, Pam and Brian on the court
At 91, Pam Harrison manages to play croquet nearly every day and highly recommends it. (ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

A nasty game

Doug Cornish, vice-captain and grounds coordinator at the club, agrees the game employs something akin to war tactics.

“A lot of players will say it’s an aggressive game played by nice people with a smile on their face,” he said.

Three men.
Brian Rosen, Doug Cornish, and David Knott at Nowra Croquet Club(ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

Out on the lawn you have four options.

“It’s all about deciding whether you can run a hoop, or whether you need to clear an opponent or block an opponent, or promote your partner’s ball,” he said.

However, Mr Cornish said a key ingredient to a good game was patience.

“Don’t rush in. Look at what your options are, and then if you want to get really technical you’d look at what the percentage of performing a particular shot is,” he said.

The importance of sports

A group of people hanging out in the club house
Club members enjoy time together on and off the lawns. (ABC Illawarra: Sarah Moss)

Karen James believes that at their club, which supports over 60 members, players understand the importance of sport.

“People are realizing, for longevity, the importance of sport,” she said.

“[It is important] to keep going and to keep not only physically active but socially active, so you are interacting as well.

“This game is perfect for those people who can’t run the marathon any more or swing a golf club or even bend down to bowl.”


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