Jean Armstrong

World Croquet Federation

Hall of Fame

Jean Armstrong

Born: 1913

Died: 2013

Inducted: 2008

Jean made a very substantial contribution to croquet over a very long period of time.  Her principal strength was to get new players to begin playing and then to continue to play the game.  She was tenacious and players came under her spell and became determined to do well guided by her expert tuition.  Although a stroke in her nineties meant that she could no longer play or coach, she remained a fount of knowledge of the game until the end of her life.

Jean had an enviable record of success stories with the people she coached.  Altogether, twelve people who had their first game with her went on to become State players.  She and husband Tom spent two years of their lives teaching croquet in colleges and Centres of Adult Education hoping to develop players that would be able to beat England in the MacRobertson Shield.  However, only two first class players emerged in the shape of Neil Spooner and Robert Bartholomaeus.

Between 1969 and 1971, Jean taught croquet five days a week in six colleges.  Saturday matches were organised and the mothers liked this because the croquet court became a social meeting place.  Competitions were arranged at the South Australian Croquet Association Headquarters with as many as 48 turning out on a Saturday morning.

Jean started at Westminster School in 1969.  Six of the boys became croquet players and joined Brighton Croquet Club.  They played in the Pennants and won the Pennant for Brighton but there wasn’t a Pennant for the school.  At SACA headquarters hands went up in horror at the thought of two pennants!  So Barrie Chambers gave one to the school and history was made – a pennant for the Club and a pennant for the School.

Although Jean worked very hard in schools and colleges, she found that it was not a great source of croquet players.  It seemed that the younger a player starts croquet, the earlier they leave the game!  Possibly one reason was that the girls found the clothing restrictions irksome.  One girl was criticized because she went without a hat!

Recruiting new club members was the area where Jean had an amazing record and it is believed that there were about 300 who became registered croquet players through her efforts.  In Jean’s words, “I think the main thing is that once we’ve got them, we haven’t lost them!”

Marion Croquet Club was one of Jean’s crowning glories in recruiting.  The five lawns were first used in February 1983.  Within about nine months, there was a membership of forty, almost thirty of them new to croquet.  At its peak Marion had over 100 members.  First new members were a trickle and then became a flood.  It proved that new players are the best recruiters.  Jean’s first strategic aim was to make the new players enthusiastic.  She did this by playing Golf Croquet until they were hooked and then devoted time to making them knowledgeable in the game.

She had another recruitment triumph in Rockhampton.  She stayed there for six weeks and recruited twelve fully paid-up members who had never thought of playing croquet.  The Club President arranged for her to be interviewed on TV and this certainly helped – as four of the recruits were from the TV station!

Jean had more success at Barmera which was also started from nothing.  The courts were laid, croquet gear was lent to them and soon there were twenty-seven players.

For many years, Jean liaised with what was then known as the National Fitness Council (now Recreation and Sport).  She participated in their Recreation for Housewives Scheme, mostly in the city of Brisbane but, on one occasion, a three-day visit to Barmera was arranged.  There a most enthusiastic group was coached on the Oval and, when the irrigation programme drove them off, Jean persuaded a nearby hotel to lend a piece of ground where a two court complex was laid out.

Jean Armstrong is one of those rare individuals who combined the development of excellence in sport combined with the encouragement of the ‘also rans'.  She did not discriminate between a potential state or international player and a person who had difficulty in walking.  She simply loved Croquet and her enthusiasm was infectious and enduring.

Revised August 2017

Tony Hall OBE

World Croquet Federation

Hall of Fame

Tony Hall OBE

Born: 1932

Inducted: 2009

Tony Hall has devoted himself to croquet for more than twenty years, both as a player and an administrator.  He served as an active and ambitious President of the World Croquet Federation from 1998 to 2003 and then promptly undertook the role of Treasurer of the Australian Croquet Association from 2004 to 2012.  Before becoming President of the World Croquet Federation, he had served as as President of his club and of the Croquet New South Wales and as the Senior Vice-President of Australian Croquet Association.

Tony spent 38 years in the Australian Army, joining in 1949 and serving overseas in the Antarctic, Malaya, England, Thailand, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea.  He retired as a full Colonel in 1987 and was awarded the OBE. He gained considerable administrative experience both as an officer and from playing and being actively involved in the administration of hockey, squash and swimming.  He helped to start a hockey club, was secretary of the Canberra Veterans Hockey Association for three years and represented his State for ten years.  He served as the treasurer of a squash club for 14 years and spent ten years administering a swimming club in which time he became a senior swimming referee and was made a life member of the club after it became the top club in Australia.  His involvement with swimming also gave him direct experience of high level sports politics with the New South Wales and Australian Swimming Associations.

He took up croquet in 1989 became Secretary of the Canberra Croquet Club within months of joining and then its Treasurer after two years.  As President of Croquet NSW from 1993 to 1996, he visited all NSW clubs, helping to increase membership from 48 to 62 clubs in three years.  During his term as President of the WCF he visited all 24 countries who were then members and ten other potential members.

In 1998 to 2006, he acted as chairman of the first WCF Golf Croquet Rules Committee and then continued to serve as Australia's representative until 2013.  The adoption of the new rules in 2001 are widely regarded as greatly assisting the dramatic increase in the popularity of Golf Croquet all over the world.

On becoming its President, Tony had several ambitions for the WCF. He wanted it to become a genuine international body for croquet, having responsibility for the rules of the games of Association Croquet and Golf Croquet, for organising international competitions and for standardising handicapping and everything that happens on the court.  He also wanted to expand the number of office bearers and officers so that the duties of the Secretary-General could be delegated among a larger number of administrators.  He also performed the duties of the Secretary-General as well as those of the President for one year in the middle of his term before finding a replacement for the inaugural incumbent and a number of other officers.  He saw most of these ambitions realised during his term if office and some of those that remained, such as the management of the Laws of Association Croquet and of the MacRobertson Shield, have since been brought under the WCF umbrella.

Since 1990, Tony travelled around the world every year to play and administer croquet, including attending every World Championship and MacRobertson Shield competition. He played in the Australian Association Croquet Championships every year and has been ranked in the top hundred in the world. He has played in the British, New Zealand, Irish, Canadian, German and United States Association Croquet National Championships and in all other WCF countries with courts, winning the German Open in 2001.  He also won the British GC Open Doubles and won his Australian tracksuit in 1998 to play for Australia in the third Golf Croquet World Championships.  Since then he has since played in five more Golf Croquet World Championships, with a best placing of twentieth.  From 2001 to 2006 he represented NSW in the Australian Interstate Association Croquet Championship and also represented NSW in 2007 and 2008 in the first two Australian Interstate Golf Croquet Championship.  He won the 2002 and 2005 National Golf Croquet Handicap Championship, the 2004 Australian Golf Croquet Open Singles Championship and, in 2005, won the NSW and Queensland Open Singles Association Croquet championships.  While doing all this, he also played hockey with his veterans’ team for twenty years, touring England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Australia and South America!

Tony also found time to serve for five years as Tournament Referee of the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championships in California and as the Tournament Referee for the 1997 WCF Golf Croquet World Championship at Leamington Spa.  He also acted as a referee in almost all the world level events since then until 2011.

Tony is a widower with three children and seven grandchildren.  He has displayed an extraordinary amount of energy and commitment to croquet and other sports since his retirement in 1989 both as a player and, above all, as an administrator who knew how to run sports bodies to a very high standard.  The world of croquet owes him a considerable debt.

[Updated August 2017]

 

John Jaques II

World Croquet Federation

Hall of Fame

John Jaques II

Born: 1820

Died: 1890

Inducted: 2007

John Jaques II was the grandson of Thomas Jaques who founded a company in 1795 that can claim to be the oldest manufacturer of games in the world.  Thomas was a farmer’s son of French Huguenot descent whose recent forebears had found refuge in England sometime after 1685 when the Edict of Nantes forbade Protestantism in France.

Thomas’ son John went into partnership with him and so began a long family tradition which survives to today.  Originally, the firm described itself as aManufacturer of Ivory, Hardwoods, Bone, and Tunbridge Ware” but John’s son, John Jaques II, built a reputation for Jaques & Son as a publisher of games.

John Jaques II enjoyed considerable success in promoting croquet and it speedily became the vogue, not only in England but also in Europe and throughout the British Empire.  Croquet became especially popular in India, reportedly played by The Viceroy himself with a solid ivory mallet, which was probably made by Jaques as part of their finest set of croquet equipment.

The attractions of croquet were obvious with the benefit of hindsight.  It allowed fashionable people to step outside the claustrophobic Victorian parlour and "take exercise" and enjoy the fresh air without any risk of breaking into a sweat.  It provided an opportunity to show off their finery which is probably why the term "crinoline croquet" entered the lexicon.  It also provided young men and women a legitimate reason for mingling and sometimes wandering off into the proverbial rhododendron bushes, momentarily out of sight of the ever-present chaperones!

"Nothing but tobacco smoke has ever spread as rapidly" commented Dr. Prior, an early enthusiast of the game.  Certainly, Jaques and Son, as the modern firm of Jaques of London was then called, had no trouble selling large quantities of croquet equipment.  By the early 1860s, John Jaques II was regarded as the greatest authority on the game and, in 1864, wrote and published Croquet; the Laws and Regulations of the Game which is recognizably the foundation of the modern laws of Association Croquet.

Arthur Ross

World Croquet Federation

Hall of Fame

Arthur Ross

Born:  1895

Died:  1975

Inducted:  2006

Arthur George Francis Ross was born in Christchurch New Zealand and was the third son of Edward James and Ginny Ross (nee Cox).  His father was the founding Secretary of the United Tennis, Bowls and Croquet Club in Christchurch and was a driving force in the formation of the New Zealand Croquet Council in 1920.

Arthur subsequently attended Christ's College in Christchurch and took up croquet in his teens.  In 1915, he won his major title, the New Zealand Doubles Championship with H.A. Penn, and was also runner-up to Keith Izard in the New Zealand Singles Championship.

He fought in World War 1 where, in the latter stages, he was gassed at Ypres.  His two brothers were both killed in action.

During his many months of convalescence at Hanmer Springs, he refined his game and evolved his distinctive and memorable style before resuming play in the 1920 New Zealand Championships where he again won the Doubles Championship with Penn.

Following recuperation, he became a poultry farmer and later a schoolteacher in North Canterbury, New Zealand, a position which also required him to drive the school bus over hazardous back country roads.  He retired in 1951.

His croquet success continued and he won the New Zealand Singles Championship 11 times, was runner-up a further eight times, won the New Zealand Men Championship six times and the British Open Championship in 1954.

In 1930, he made his debut in the MacRobertson Shield, eventually representing New Zealand no less than six times and captained the first New Zealand team to win the Shield in 1950.

At various times, he held every office on the New Zealand Croquet Council (President 1928-1930, Secretary 1932-1935, Vice-President and Referee 1935-1952) and started the New Zealand Croquet Council Gazette as editor, at his own expense.  He wrote "Croquet and How to Play it" which ran to no less than five editions and, due to his acknowledged international authority on the Laws of the Game, the "Powers and Duties of an Umpire" in 1946.

He was actively involved in coaching around the country, often finding himself battling to hold breaks together while demonstrating on some odd proportioned lawns at out of the way clubs, playing with a pipe in his mouth that he would sometimes throw to the boundary as his break became more involved.

In 1952, he was officially recognised as a leading luminary in the sport with the award of a Life Membership of the New Zealand Croquet Council.

He was married twice, namely to Violet Ross (nee Minchen), who died in 1974, and to Lena Ross (nee Ashworth) who also died in 1974.  He had three sons, Hugh (b.1925, d.1992), Terence (b.1927), Peter (b.1940) and his only daughter Jean (b.1930) was at one time married to Ashley Heenan.

Arthur was a wonderfully kind hearted man.  When asked late in life about his croquet record, he only reluctantly gave the details but said that his grandchildren were his best record.

Sometimes known as “The father of the triple peel”, Arthur Ross died at Motueka, New Zealand in 1975.

In 1979, the Ross family and his son-in-law, Ashley Heenan presented to the New Zealand Croquet Council the Arthur Ross Memorial Trophy for the New Zealand National Handicap Event to encourage croquet at grass roots level, something in which Ross believed passionately.

Nigel Aspinall

World Croquet Federation

Hall of Fame

Nigel Aspinall

Born: 1946

Inducted: 2007

Nigel's rise to the top of the sport was nothing short of spectacular.  Studying as an undergraduate at Bristol University, he arriving as a new member at the local Bristol club in 1965 at the age of 19 or so and was immediately given a handicap of six.  He had, he later explained, played a bit at home from the age of 12 or so.  His father had bought a second-hand croquet set and the family had played on a former grass tennis court - despite two Victoria plum trees.  They made up their own rules.

In Bristol, he discovered the real game.  "I could," he says, "hit one ball on to another, at, say, 10 or 15 yards, and I think I had a basic idea of tactics.  But I was playing roll shots inaccurately, and I think I was still playing the sequence game."

A few weeks after arriving at Bristol his handicap was reduced to 3.  He had time before the end of the season for a weekend tournament at Cheltenham and a visit to Parkstone in September.  Next season, with a handicap of 1, he played in the Open Championship at the suggestion of a fellow club member, John Simon.  Together, they won the Open Doubles Championship.  Both were then selected for the President's Cup and Aspinall came joint second to William Ormerod.

Nigel had gone from his first tournament to selection for the President's Cup in just 10 months!  What is all the more remarkable is that there were no lessons on the way.  All he did was to ask a few questions.  As he said: "You pick it up like that, really."  Neither did he ever enjoy the luxury of fistfuls of bisques.

The record books show that, having risen to the top so effortlessly, he stayed there for over 20 years.  In that time, he won the Men's Championship twice, the Open Championship eight times and the President's Cup 11 times, a record that was equalled in 2012 (by Robert Fulford) but has yet to be surpassed.  He won the Open Championship three times in a row twice (1974 to 1976 and 1982 to 1984) and he won four President's Cups back to back (1973 to 1976).  He played in the MacRobertson Shield four times, from 1969 to 1986.  It is worth remembering that when he wasn't actually winning championships, he was usually the runner-up.

Prichard in his The History of Croquet described Nigel as a "practical, match-winning machine," and he was considered by some to be more or less unbeatable for some years.  "No," he says, "not quite unbeatable. No. There were all sorts of people who would occasionally beat me, and equally there were one or two people who found me - um - difficult."

"I think I had the ability to concentrate very well.  If you are concentrating 100%, it takes wild horses to drag you off your stride."  Another quality he had was self-belief.

However, the player who gains the greatest praise from Aspinall himself is John Solomon who, with himself, had a quality of "naturalness" of swing, shown often to perfection.

Aspinall always felt he was at his peak round about 1975, when from the end of 1974 to 1976 he won 24 consecutive games in the President's. "I'd won some in '74, all in '75 and the first five or six in '76. It was Colin Prichard who broke my run."

He believes in practising "a little", and he offers this advice on the subject: "Try to make it exciting.  For example, I have a routine of six-yard roquets, where you put four balls in a line and another four parallel six yards away, and the idea is that you hit as many consecutive shots as possible.  Say you hit three in a row and then miss.  You then have to zero your counter and start again.  But this time - say a week later - you have to improve on three.  As soon as you do, stop.  Don't let it become boring.  In other words, give yourself a target and improve on it."

Aspinall eventually gave up top-level play in 1995 when he learned he was diagnosed as having dangerously high blood pressure.  Commenting he said, " I reckoned it wasn't a good idea to increase the stress levels."

Nigel Aspinall was one of the supreme technicians of the game with his famed touch and control.  His incisiveness and fluency may have been "machine-like", but, unlike any machine, he sought to extend the notions of the possible.  To see Nigel in full flow in his hey-day, usually playing with a battered old mallet - one from his father's second-hand set, was to see croquet perfection.

Nigel is a modest man who claimed to only one significant contribution to the sport, namely that of introducing International Rules to the East Coast of the USA in 1974 on his first visit there.  However, those who saw him in action in the 1970s and 1980s do not accept such a limited account of his influence on the game.  He was the natural successor to John Solomon as the best player in the world and maintained that reputation until almost the dawn of the youthful revolution in English croquet in the late 1980s.