20 July 2022

92-year-old croquet rookie outguns opponents at Griffith Croquet Club event

| Oliver Jacques
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Jean Guiton

92-year-old Jean Guiton holds her winning ball. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

A 92-year-old croquet rookie has stunned onlookers with her precision ball striking at the Griffith Croquet Club’s social tournament on Friday, 15 July.

Jean Guiton, a retired sheep farmer from Rankins Springs, made her debut in the sport at age 91. But she showed no signs of nerves or inexperience in nailing consecutive hoops and taking out the opening round of Friday’s event.

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“I’ve played a lot of sports in my days – mostly tennis and golf – but this is something new for me. I’m starting to get the hang of it,” Ms Guiton said.

The nonagenarian remains as sharp as ever both on and off the lawns, driving herself to the matches and keeping up the banter as she plays.

Griffith Croquet Club players

Griffith Croquet Club. Photo: Oliver Jacques

Croquet is a lawn sport in which players use mallets to stroke wooden balls through a series of square-topped hoops.

The Griffith Croquet Club is the brainchild of former school librarian Sue Fordham, who organises social croquet three times a week on the lawns behind the Griffith Visitors Centre, starting at 1 pm on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday. The club welcomes new members who can come along to any or all of the three days.

“We found an ideal place for it, where the council are letting us use some land on a temporary basis. It’s the best patch of grass we have found,” Ms Fordham said.

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The venue was once an eyesore of overgrown weeds and shrubs in the heart of town, but croquet club volunteers have transformed it into a beautifully manicured lawn which is ideal for the sport.

“We do all the gardening and maintenance ourselves. A number of volunteers chip in. We’ve also got some help from Murrumbidgee Regional High School teacher Carl Chirgwin,” Ms Fordham said.

“That’s really helpful because mowing and spraying are exhausting for us volunteers; most of our players are in their 80s and 90s. We hope that one day the high school students will be able to come down and play this sport as a school activity. Croquet really is a sport for all ages.”

The Griffith-based club mostly play a simple variant of the sport known as golf croquet, in which each player takes a turn at hitting a ball through the same hoop in the sequence of blue, red, black and yellow. The player or team that wins the most hoops wins the match.

Sue Fordham playing croquet

Griffith Croquet Club organiser Sue Fordham. Photo: Oliver Jacques.

Chester Johnstone, a retired rice farmer and one of the young guns at the club at age 74, reckons the game is not as easy as it looks.

“Some of the shots I’ve hit are absolutely terrible. It takes time to work out where to position the ball,” he said.

Like most sports, there’s always a sprinkle of controversy in tight matches. On Friday, the handicap system raised the ire of one player, but Ms Fordham said the environment is always social and welcoming.

The club hopes to stay at their current location for as long as possible, but the prime real estate may be used for something else by the local council in the future. The club will live on, however.

Anyone wanting to join the Griffith Croquet Club, or even try the sport, is invited to email [email protected] or come along to play on a Tuesday, Friday or Sunday. The Griffith Visitors Information Centre is located on the corner of Banna and Jondaryan Ave, Griffith.

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