Hall of Fame Archive

Greg Bryant

A newspaper advertisement in the mid 1970’s for an open day at the Brightwater Croquet Club in Nelson suggested that “a knowledge of snooker is beneficial”. Knowing nothing of croquet, but being familiar with his mother’s abilities with cue in hand, Greg thought it might be just the thing to get her off the couch!

Marilyn’s playing career lasted 2 weeks. Greg became a student for life, now with an international playing career exceeding 30 years and since 2013, Croquet New Zealand’s Sport Development Officer.

Brain Wislang handed Greg Arthur Ross’s Croquet Handbook. As a young and ambitious teenager, Greg concluded that the final chapter, “The Triple Peel,” contained the secrets to beating his newfound handicap 3 croquet idol and spent many hours after school at the croquet club attempting to emulate the chapter’s shot-for-shot instructions. On Saturday afternoon’s, self-appointed doubles partner Edith Tongue shared her wisdoms and Greg completed his first season winning the Nelson ‘C Grade’ Silver Badge and a break of 6 hoops.

On a Saturday bike ride 10 years later, Greg came across a Croquet NZ Yearbook at the Hornby Croquet Club and an advertisement for the NZ Junior Championship starting a week later. Manager Maud Trainor accepted his late entry, a club mallet was provided, and Mary Murfitt kindly dressed him in set of husband Roger’s hand-me-down whites! When presenting Greg with the championship trophy, Roger proposed that he may one day represent New Zealand and Greg’s ambition to become member of a winning MacRobertson Shield team was set.

His first International foray came in 1990 including representative matches against the visiting Australian and English MacRobertson Shield teams. “I think I was fortunate to draw an out-of-form Leigh Herington in our Australian match and equally for a windy day against England’s Robert Fulford a week later, but it was in winning those matches that I decided to prioritize my croquet aspirations over motorcycles and meaningful employment”.

Greg relocated to Christchurch where most of the victorious 1986 MacRobertson team resided. Successes in several domestic events followed including two New Zealand Doubles Championships with legendary John Prince. His first of his six MacRobertson Shield selections soon followed in 1993.

An illness contracted shortly after the ‘93 series side-lined Greg’s international aspirations for a decade, but he was again selected for the 2003 MacRobertson Shield series alongside his earlier mentors Brian Wislang and John Prince. His most memorable contribution to that series was locking the keys and team’s mallets in the car boot, 30 minutes before play commenced.

Long standing doubles partners Paul Skinley and Paddy Chapman became most familiar with the “Bryant alternative” over subsequent years – a leave involving the parking of one’s ball in the jaws of hoop 1 with a laid break for opponents, until Chapman’s insistence of a mallet upgrade in 2010 transformed Greg’s consistency. He won his first of five New Zealand Open titles in 2011 after 20 long years of trying and established a successful doubles partnership with Jenny Clarke over the following two MacRobertson Shield series.

Greg’s name was at last engraved on the Shield in 2014, along with the New Zealand ‘dream team’ and seemingly life-long friends Toby Garrison, Aaron Westerby, Chris and Jenny Clarke and Paddy Chapman. He still contemplates the meaning of post-mac life on the southern West Coast of New Zealand, riding motorcycles and creating pathways for future world champions.  

 

See the full bio and list of achievements here.

 

Chris Clarke

Teachers have been known to be influential in the lives of youth.
Sometimes that influence extends beyond the classroom. When
Chris was 13, his French teacher in England asked if anyone
wanted to learn croquet. This was the serendipity that started
Chris on the course to win 60 national and international croquet
titles.
While he lived in England he belonged to Southport, Bowdon,
Colchester, and Letchworth Croquet Clubs. He joined his first
club, Southport, in 1984. When he moved to Christchurch in
2005, he started playing at Cashmere Croquet Club then moved
briefly to Elmwood. He has been a member at United Croquet
club for around 13 years.
Chris started with split hands and grounded mallet for his swing.
After watching Robert Fulford, at the National Junior
Championship a couple of years after he started, he switched to
casting. It wasn’t until after his dreadful 1989 season that he
started to move his hands together at the start of the 1990
season.
Chris’ first national tournament was in 1988 at the British Open
Championships. Within a couple of months, he won the
Presidents Cup at the age of 17 years, 2 months. He was the
youngest to ever win the title. In 1991, he won a Bronze Medal
in the World Association Croquet Championship. At the World’s
he completed the first sextuple peel in a WCF World Singles
Championship. Chris also completed the first ever delayed
sextuple in the World Championship in 1995.
Chris has never lost a major Team Event in which he has
played. He has the record number of National AC Doubles titles.
He also won his first 23 World Team Doubles matches with
Robert Fulford, which is a record. He finished his International
Team career by winning his last 23 World Team Doubles
matches with Robert Fulford, Paddy Chapman and Jenny
Clarke, an unbeaten record stretching over 10 years.
Chris moved to NZ in 2005 and continued to represent England
until 2012. He went on to win the 2014 MacRobertson Shield
playing at number 1 for NZ and then Captain the 2016 NZ team
to victory in the Openshaw Shield. He is the only player who has
captained both MacRobertson Shield and Openshaw Shield
winning teams. He was inducted into the World Croquet
Federation Hall of Fame in 2010. When Chris was inducted into
the WCF Hall of Fame, he was ranked number one in the world
in both AC and GC. Chris was ranked number one in the world
at AC for most of the last seven years of his singles career 2008
– 2014.

Chris played his last competitive AC singles game in January
2014 at the MacRobertson Shield. He played his last GC singles
game in May 2016 at the Openshaw Shield. Since then he has
exclusively played doubles.
Chris continues to be involved with croquet in different avenues.
In 2005 he instigated the CNZ Youth Squad and coached it for
multiple years. He became a life member of Canterbury Croquet
Association in 2015 and in 2016 the United Croquet Club made
him a life member. He has managed
national and world events and coached players throughout the
years, several of whom have gone on to become World
Champions themselves.
Chris says that “It is my record in team events, doubles and
coaching that define me, rather than any singles wins.”

 

See the full bio and list of achievements here.

Paddy Chapman

Paddy started playing croquet at the age of 11 at the Cashmere Croquet Club in Christchurch.  He was helped immensely by the members at Cashmere – Kay Wade, Liz & Alan Milne and numerous others played an integral role in his development in the game. At the same time, Don Young from a nearby croquet club (Barrington) was coaching over a dozen 10-12 year olds on Saturday mornings. Paddy attended these sessions in addition to the coaching he was receiving at Cashmere. Another big factor in his croquet development was that, coincidentally, the sport’s pinnacle team event, MacRobertson Shield, was taking place in Christchurch in January 2000. Watching this major event was a big inspiration for him and very influential with him learning more and improving his skills to one day, hopefully, compete in the “Mac” himself. 

 

In 2001 the National School Age tournament was held in Christchurch with Paddy winning the event unbeaten. It was where he was first introduced to the legendary John Prince. John began mentoring Paddy the following season. They would play each other at the United Croquet Club almost weekly. This continued for several years and was absolutely instrumental in Paddy’s progress. Paddy’s playing style was heavily influenced by watching, studying and playing against John over many years. 

 

2005 was a major year in Paddy’s croquet development by being selected for his first World Championship event that was held in England. It was a step-change improvement when he qualified for the knockout section. Despite losing in the first round of the knockout to John Gibbons, he went on to win both halves of the plate event outright. Two months later he won his first major title by claiming the NZ Top 10 Invitation with a peeling finish in every game. 

 

Paddy set personal goals early in his playing career. They were to win the three most important events:  the NZ AC Open, the MacRobertson Shield and the World AC Championship, and he succeeded by winning all of them.

 

In 2010 he claimed the NZ Open singles title, defeating Stephen Mulliner 3-1 in a high-quality final consisting of only 23 turns. In 2014 he was a member of the victorious NZ team that reclaimed the MacRobertson Shield that ended a nearly 30-year drought for NZ. Overall Paddy has competed in four MacRobertson Shields in each of the four host countries.

However, Paddy’s career-defining achievement (up to this point at least!) came in 2018 at the Croquet World Championship in Wellington where he defeated arguably the best player ever, Reg Bamford. He won the final 3-2 to become Croquet World Champion. This was the first New Zealander to do so since Joe Hogan won the inaugural event in 1989. 

 

It is very fitting that, although John Prince has not been a regular competitor on the croquet scene over the last decade, he was present at all three of these moments. 

 

Other titles Paddy won over the years include the Australian Men’s Championship, Australian Gold Medal, Australian Open Doubles, British Open Doubles, and in 2015 the prestigious UK President’s Cup that is an invitation event for the top 8 players in the UK. He was the first and only New Zealander to win the event.

 

Away from playing, Paddy is also a registered coach and has run numerous coaching sessions at his local clubs over the years. Recently he contributed a chapter on peeling developments in the latest croquet book on the scene: Beyond Expert Croquet Tactics. While family and work commitments have taken priority over playing for the moment, he still fits in a few tournaments a year and keeps a keen interest in croquet matters. Currently he is serving a third year on the CNZ Tournament Committee. For the last few years, Paddy has been living and working in the UK, with his wife, Miranda, and their two kids Ollie and Tilly. 

 

Full bio and list of achievements can be found here.

 

Toby Garrison

While in intermediate school Toby would attend tournaments in which his step father, Kevin Fellows, was playing. Initially he didn’t see the attraction but decided to give it a go and was hooked very quickly.  Association croquet was the only major code when he started in 1993.  Toby credits Kevin as being an incredibly good coach and having a huge passion for the game.  Also having the live-in support was invaluable.

 

Toby first joined Waimarie Croquet Club (now Waimarie Hutt Valley CC) and continued to be a member for over 20 years. In 2017 he joined the Wellington Municipal Croquet Club on Mt Victoria in Wellington.

 

Toby immediately decided that the standard grip was going to be the way he held his mallet. He says, “It just felt the most natural to me.” For a few years he grounded his mallet before striking the ball, but after watching a few players such as Aaron Westerby, Shane Davis and some of the Brits – David Maugham and Rob Fulford – he started casting and has stuck with it ever since. Of the players he watched, only Shane has a standard grip and all of them cast and hit incredibly well.

 

While Kevin was the primary influence on Toby’s game, another leading player, Tony Stephens, generously put time into helping him learn the ropes.

 

In 1996, three years after Toby gave croquet a go, he played association croquet in his first nationals and invitations.  He played in school-age tournaments in Hastings and Palmerston North in 1994 and 1995 respectively. His lead up to playing in the nationals was by playing in events mainly in the lower North Island, most often alongside or supported by Kevin.

 

Toby says he “feels incredibly lucky to have happened across croquet. I’ve made lifelong friends, have had numerous opportunities to represent my country and have been able to travel all over the world playing the game. It’s been a huge part of my life for over 27 years, and it has given me so much.”

 

Toby is a natural with a beautiful swing and a passion for croquet. He rose rapidly and won his first national event in 1998 and was the captain of the MacRobertson Shield ten years after first giving croquet a go. Toby continues to play croquet but is also busy raising a young family.

 

Full bio and list of achievements can be found here.

Jenny Clarke (nee Williams)

Jenny Clarke’s path to playing croquet was a circuitous one. She played cricket at Oxford University (1995-1999) and started playing squash to keep fit for cricket. She was also the treasurer of the Oxford University Women’s Squash Club for a year. During that time, due to persistent back injuries, she was keen to have sporty activities to do outside when cricket wasn’t an option. She’d played squash with the senior treasurer of the University women’s squash club who was also the University croquet coach, Dr Ian Plummer. She thought that as he was pretty fit and seemed very intelligent; perhaps croquet was worth giving a go. So she signed up for his Introduction to croquet programme. However, she actually learned to play online through Ian’s oxfordcroquet.com site while on a research trip to a collider experiment in Hamburg, using coins to make a croquet “lawn”, and moving them around to play a break.

 

The first croquet club Jenny belonged to was the Oxford University Croquet Club. The next was Bowdon Croquet Club while in Manchester and also briefly Cheltenham CC. On an Oxford University CC tour of California, she met members at the San Francisco CC where she joined for a couple of years while working on a collaborative project between Manchester University and Stanford Linear Accelerator Centre in Palo Alto, California (USA).

 

Jenny returned to NZ in October 2005 and joined Cashmere Croquet Club for about a year before moving to Elmwood for a brief time. Finally, she and her husband Chris moved to their current location in Shirley and joined United Croquet Club where she has been a member for 12 years.

 

Originally Jenny played with a slightly split standard grip having picked up a mallet the same way her coach, Ian Plummer, did. When on the Oxford CC tour of California in 2000 a few of the team had some fun copying Dave Maugham’s Solomon grip, which she found worked well and used for several years. A return to Standard grip came after Chris Clarke commented on her poor croquet strokes and due to a lack of touch around hoops.

 

Then in 2007 (3 months after winning the Swiss Open in a best-of-five against Stephen Mulliner), a persistent wrist injury caused Jenny to consider stopping playing. Being somewhat ambidextrous, she swapped hands instead. After a rough start to left-handedness, including a run of 15 straight losses she decided she was still right-handed for croquet strokes. Now she plays all standing up strokes, such as shooting, take-offs,

some high-ratio croquet strokes like stop shots, left-handed, and all other croquet strokes and jumps right-handed. She has a range of strokes around a drive where she sometimes has a bit of trouble working out which way around to hold a mallet!

 

Jenny played her first tournament in 1999 – the Open Association Croquet Oxford Tournament. She was delighted to have a 3-hoop break as a handicap 16. A bit later in the season she played in the Cheltenham Easter Handicap Weekend and was cut to a handicap 5 the day before the tournament by coach Ian. She won most of her games, and was surprised to discover she had won her section of the tournament! Shortly after that she started playing in more tournaments. She had her share of very low-win events ever since then, as well as some very enjoyable tournament wins.

 

Surbiton held a one-day GC event during Easter 2003 and 2004. These were Jenny’s first competitive Golf Croquet, and were used as a warmup for the UK AC season. At that time GC wasn’t widely played, and was frowned upon at her club. Her first proper tournament was the 2006 GC Open World Championship in Napier/Hastings. She had to convince Charles Jones to let her play. (Charles later acted as celebrant at Chris and her wedding, and before that managed several NZ team events that Jenny played in.) She came 7th in that world championship event.

 

Jenny’s first ranking game in New Zealand was beating Harps Tahurangi in the 2003 New Zealand Open. Since then she and Harps have played plenty of times all over New Zealand, and most recently had a very enjoyable doubles partnership in the 2017 MacRobertson Shield.

 

Jenny continues to be recognized for being ranked the top woman in the world in both AC and GC. She has held the AC distinction most of the past 14 years. She has also held open world rankings as high as number 6 in Association Croquet and number 10 in Golf Croquet in the world, making her the highest ranked woman in the world in modern times. Jenny is understandably the top ranked woman in NZ in both codes. She was named CNZ Player of the Year in 2019. Besides the achievements that are listed, Jenny is an Examining Referee for both Golf Croquet and Association Croquet. She manages and referees tournaments as well as coaching players at all levels, which saw her receive the honours of being made Patron of Holmes Park Croquet Club in 2016 and a life member of the Canterbury Croquet Association in 2018.

 

Full Bio and achievements can be found here.

Graham Beale

Currently living and working in Dubai, Graham originally hails from Christchurch where he learned his croquet at the Cashmere Croquet Club.

 

Graham comes from a croquet-playing family and began taking croquet seriously when only 14 years old, spending all his summer holidays either playing croquet or scouring the local library for publications on the sport.

 

He was runner-up to Bob Jackson in the final of the New Zealand Open Championship in 1984 (the first time he had entered this event) and gained his first representative honour when selected as a member of the successful New Zealand MacRobertson team in 1986 which travelled to Britain and retuned howe with the shield. This was followed by successes a year later in winning the President¹s Invitation event, as well as producing the first sextuple to be completed in North America – playing in the World Championship at Sonoma.

 

Graham was selected for the 1990 MacRobertson series and again in 1993, this time as captain. During the early 2000’s has tended to become known as a doubles “specialist” in tournament play, winning three New Zealand doubles titles partnering Richard Baker (twice) and John Prince.

 

After a 13 year hiatus from the sport, Graham recently made a ‘come-back’ appearance at the New Zealand Men’s Championship which he claims has whet his appetite to take up the sport once again.

 

Susan Wiggins (nee Grigg)

Susan was a very accompolished sportswoman before taking up croquet, excelling in equestrian events, figure skating and Golf.  She exhibited the same gritty determination as a croquet player, coached by Fred Guernsey at Fendalton Park club she adopted the same tactical approach as Fred employed which tended to be rather careful and somewhat defensive.  Susan sometimes expressed the wish to become a more adventuresome player but Fred’s influence made that difficult.  However, on her day she was a formidable opponent, never giving an inch and remaining determined to win to the very end.

 

Susan was a member of the New Zealand Team in the Trans Tasman Test series in 1988, 1990 and 1992 (vice Captain), during the 1979 MacRobertson series she played for a N.Z. Representative side against Great Britain and during the 1990 series was Captain of the Rep side against Australia.  In the N.Z. Championships she was runner up in the Open in 1983, won the Women’s in 1975,79, Heenan Plate 1978, Mixed Doubles (with P. Couch)  1980, Handicap Singles 1978,1983,1986 and 1989.  South Island Open Champion 1982. She has an outstanding record in the S.I. Women’s Championship, winning the title a record 15 times, namely 1973, 1975 through to 1985 (10 consecutive wins), 1987, 1989 and 1991. The Doubles (with Mrs. F. Fraser) 1979,1981, (with husband Robert Wiggins) in 1982.  Handicap Singles 1972, 1984, Silver Medal 1982, Bronze Medal 1972, Gold Mallet 1983, Silver Mallet 1978.

 

In addition to her New Zealand titles Susan won the C.A. (England) Women’s Championship 1982, 1983, 1986.  C.A. Ladies field Cup Invitation winner 1982, 1984 and 1985. Silver Medal (England) 1983.

 

Bill and Ada Kirk

Bill and Ada Kirk made a big contribution to New Zealand croquet over a number of years with Bill serving as President from 1948 to 1956.  Ada was a member of the victorious 1950/51 MacRobertson Shield Team playing one singles match in the third test at Dunedin.  For many years Ada handled the publicity from the Championships every night she could be heard on National Radio giving the results from the day’s play.

She was known to sometimes give a running commentary from the sideline on husband Bill’s play.  Ashley Heenan recalled that it seemed to be whenever he was playing Bill.

Ada in crisp tones would inform all, “Of course Mr Kirk’s play is not as precise as Mr. Heenan but he seems to be managing to hold a break together at present”.  Ashley always found Bill one of those “difficult to beat players”,  no doubt Ada’s commentary was quite a factor.

 

Bill was runner up in the NZ Open in 1950, won the Heenan Plate in 1951, South Island Open in 1936, 1947, Men’s 1948, 1949, Doubles (with Ada) 1935, 1936, 1947, 1952, 1960 and (with Mrs. E. Todd) 1958.  He won a Silver Medal in 1937 and the Gold Mallet in 1944.  While in England as Manager of the 1956 MacRobertson team he won a Silver Medal and was co-winner of the Championship of Ireland with the legendary P. D. “Duff” Matthews.

Ada won the N.Z. Women’s Championship in 1950, the C.A. (England) Women’s Championship in 1956 and also played in both the President’s Cup and Ladies Field Cup Invitation events that year.  In 1956 and 1957 she won the Heenan Plate, South Island Open 1939, 1952, Women’s 1949, Doubles with Bill as above and a Silver Medal in 1944.

Claude Bryan

F.C. (CLAUDE) BRYAN.

 

Claude Bryan played his croquet in Lower Hutt where he and his wife Peg were members at Waimarie.  He was selected for the 1940 MacRobertson team but due to the outbreak of war the series were cancelled, however did play in the 1950/51 winning MacRobertson team with a personal record of having played four and won four matches.  Peg Bryan was NZ Referee and Wellington Association Referee for many years, she was also the Referee for the tests and highly regarded by both teams.

 

Claude won the NZ Open in 1957, the Men’s Championship in 1940, 1941 and 1945.

He won the NZ Doubles twice, with Rene Watkins in 1947 and with Mrs. L. Wood in 1950.

Clem Watkins

Clem played at the Hastings club and was a member of the 1950/51 and 1956 MacRobertson teams.  He played five matches in the former winning two but sadly suffered a heart attack early in the 1956 series and took no further part.  In 1954 he became the first player to win all four titles at the NZ Championships, the Open, Mens, Doubles (with wife Rene) and the Handicap Singles, he played 26 games in total winning 24.  Ashley Heenan writing in NZ Croquet World states, “ His (Watkins) performance embodies the perfect lesson, namely, practice, practice and yet more practice.  To do this until execution of a break becomes almost second nature requires infinite patience, a quality of self-criticism and an inexhaustible enthusiasm.”

In addition to his 1954 success Clem was runner up in the Open in 1953, Men’s Champion in 1950, Doubles with Rene 1953 to 1955, Heenan Plate 1950, NZ Handicap Singles 1955, North Island Open 1955, 1956, Doubles with Rene 1955 and with Ashley Heenan 1956.  He also won the South Island Men’s in 1956 and Doubles with Rene 1954 and the English Silver Medal in 1954.