Playing hard ball

Living Well | Words: Jessica Hirst | Photos: Shannon Morris | Posted on 07 February 2018

Players of all ages are discovering the addictive appeal of croquet.

Anthony Dask and Shirley Hallinan were born more than 60 years apart but they share a common passion – a love of croquet. 

Anthony, aged 18, is among the younger generation of players drawn by croquet’s addictiveness and skill set. Croquet looks genteel, but it’s actually a mind game that demands great strategic abilities.

“I remember seeing croquet on the TV one morning and it looked interesting. I called the local club at Elsternwick and had a trial game, I have loved it ever since,” Anthony says. “I love the strategy of the game, you have to think several plays in advance and the best shot doesn’t necessarily win. It’s a sport you can play forever.” 

It’s like Twenty20 cricket but for croquet.

Many croquet clubs are expanding their appeal to younger players by installing floodlights and adding social events such as night games with dinner and drinks, family days, beginners’ lessons and mothers’ clubs. 

“A lot of younger players like golf croquet. It’s faster paced than the Association style of the sport. It’s like the Twenty20 cricket but for croquet,” he says. 

Shirley, at 85, is excited about having younger players joining the diverse player mix who enjoy the sport’s great social and physical benefits. “It’s cross-generational,” she says, “with grandparents playing alongside grandchildren.” She has introduced many of her own 19 grandchildren to the game.  

As the years pass, Shirley is not easing up. She is increasing her refereeing, coaching and administrative commitments across three established clubs and helping a fledgling club get started.

Game of croquet
croquet players sitting in the shade

Anthony Dask and Shirley Hallinan.

Currently President at Essendon Croquet Club, she is also coaching newcomers at Maribyrnong Bowls and Croquet Club, which opened in late 2017.

She likens croquet to “snooker meets chess”. Its addictiveness is akin to the lure of a golfer’s hole in one. “You’ve got to keep emulating that.”

Croquet’s flat surfaces make it suitable for older players but players can walk up to six kilometres in a day of competition, she says.

Anthony says, “There’s a perception that the game is only for retired people but it’s not. We don’t just sit around and drink tea. Well, there is some tea drinking! You’d be surprised, croquet players get injured. It’s an active sport.” 

Anthony and Shirley were among the 80-plus attendees at the Golf Croquet World Championships, held at Cairnlea’s Victorian Croquet Centre at the start of 2017, where Anthony was a competitor and Shirley a referee.

To find a Croquet Victoria club near you, visit, email administration@croquetvic or phone (03) 8361 8887.