The GB team arrived in Melbourne on Sunday 12th and Monday 13th of November. Four of the team spent Monday morning practising at the new Victoria Croquet Centre at Cairnlea. Chris elected not to practise as he wanted some time off after winning the Australian Open and Dave preferred to stay indoors out of the unexpectedly cold weather and the strong wind. Monday evening was spent at an Italian restaurant on the Melbourne waterfront.
On Tuesday the conditions were more friendly for practising so we spent longer at Cairnlea. Some of the Victoria team turned up to practise as well, and it was good to see the familiar faces of Kevin Beard, Ken Bald and Ian Bassett, all of whom have been to Britain to play in recent years.
On Wednesday we had our warm-up match against Victoria. I say warm-up, because that was the original intention. It turned out to be the coldest day of croquet I have played in for a few years, with a stiff wind and several showers, including three periods of hail. The format was three doubles games followed by six best of three singles matches.
The early play saw all three British pairs on the lawn, but soon after that all the lawns were occupied by Australians. I did not see very much of the other two games, but the closest of the three was the game Keith Aiton and I played against Kevin Beard and Anna Miller. With me on hoop 6 and Anna Miller on (I think) 4, Kevin made a break to 4b.
The lift was missed but another mistake let Keith in. He embarked on a TPO, but it was during this break that the rain turned to hail for the first time. He battled on, but eventually missed a cut rush after 1b with two peels done, explaining that he "couldn't feel the mallet any more". Kevin made rover and had a good cross-wire which was also missed, and Anna made it to 4b. Keith then went round and pegged out Kevin. In the ensuing play Anna hit in across the lawn and made it to rover, before failing to approach. A couple of turns later Anna turned down a long shot into a trap, only to find no shot at all on the next turn. Her ball was on the West boundary just south of hoop 2 and I had a wired rush to hoop 6 on the East boundary just north of 3. She went six yards south of our balls but I rushed to 6 and finished, picking up Anna's ball before 4b.
We were shown great hospitality at Cairnlea, and I am sure the centre there will be a great success once it is up and running properly.
Wednesday evening was spent at a French restaurant next to our hotel, and Thursday morning saw us make an early start to drive to Echuca - Moama, the town where the Rich River golf club is.
After a couple of days of practice, we were happy to be underway at last on Saturday.
[My internet access has been limited so far, hence the delay in posting this. There is good access at Shepparton, but not so much at Rich River.]