The inaugural Parsons Green Advanced Weekend kicked off on exactly the same day as the World Championships, but perhaps unsurprisingly, that was where the comparison ended. There were no sextuples. There was no cast of 80 players from 10 countries - just the 9 Brits (although I suppose you could count the two embittered Yorkshiremen as a separate nation). There was no Aboriginal dancing, which was probably just as well, since seeing the inhabitants of Fulham prance about scantily clad might have put the players off their breakfast. And most notably, the 23 degree temperatures and bright sunshine over in Adelaide were replaced all weekend by leaden skies and rain varying from dribbling to driving and back again. Undaunted, a capacity field had assembled and while it didn't feel as though the winner would come from outside the four minus players, it was a good spread of players such that you felt that any player could beat any other on the right day.
And so it proved, with the upsets beginning in round 1 as Alain Giraud upset Nigel Polhill in the all-Ealing clash, while Christian Carter dispatched Patrick Hort. After day one, manager, secretary and your correspondent Nick Parish had added the role of overnight leader to his portfolio, taking full advantage of playing on home turf to finish with 4 wins out of 4, including 3 TPs (more than he'd managed in the past three seasons combined). Hot on his heels and the only other unbeaten player was Alain on 3/3, having taken full advantage of Patrick's generosity - having completed the peels of a straight triple, Patrick missed the peg-out by this much and Alain took full advantage to win +1.
Lunch was expertly provided by player/chef Eugene Chang, who wants to know if it's the first time a genuine Chinese lunch has been served at a croquet tournament. The delicious smells off Taiwanese pork floating across the lawns were certainly enough to distract many of the players. Conversation at lunch largely centred around the recent CA survey. It was eventually agreed that the solution to croquet's recruitment problems was for the BBC to commission a serious of Strictly...Croquet, hosted by Ann Widdecombe, David Goacher and Nelson Morrow.
On day two Nick and Alain faced each other, and Alain held his nerve at the critical moment to hit his last shot after time had been called and win +1T to become the only unbeaten player. He could still be overhauled by Nick but only if Alain were to lose his last game to Bob Stephens and Nick could defeat Patrick. Both games hung in the balance for a while, with Bob putting up a tremendous fight, but in the end Alain didn't and Nick couldn't and Alain was the champion. Having defeated three of the four players with lower handicaps, it was clearly a thoroughly deserved win and just went to prove that any feelings at the start as to where the winner might come from had been rather misplaced.
Overall, a great success despite the atrocious weather, and one we will repeat next year.
Winner: Alain Giraud (Ealing) 5/5
Second: Nick Parish (Parsons Green) 4/6
Third: Nigel Polhill (Ealing) 4/6