Australia Match

In 1986, Scotland entertained the full Australia team, in the British Isles for the MacRobertson Shield series.






at Glasgow

The following represented Scotland in this match:

Ian Bond

AUS 86

Michael Heap

AUS 86

Bill Spalding

AUS 86

Geoff Strutt

AUS 86

Rod Williams

AUS 86

Stephen Wright

AUS 86


5-6 June, 1986, at Glasgow:

Every four years the major croquet nations, Australia, Great Britain and New Zealand, battle it out for the MacRobertson Shield.  This year it was the turn for this, the major event in the croquet calendar, to be played in Britain.  The last time it was held in Britain was in 1974, a few months after the Scottish Croquet Association was formed, and that year Scotland played a match at Gleneagles against the New Zealand team before their first Test Match in the main event.  This time we were pleased to welcome the Australian team and play a match against them before they set off south for their Test Match of the 1986 MacRobertson Shield series.

The visitors arrived in Scotland on Wednesday 4 June from Dublin where they had already played against Ireland.  When they learned that the Lord Provost of Glasgow could give them a civic reception on the Wednesday afternoon they very sportingly changed their flight from late afternoon to very early morning, and arrived at Glasgow Airport at 9.30 a.m.  This gave them time to visit the Burrell Collection, just a few hundred yards from the original courts of the Glasgow Croquet Club in Pollok Park, before going on to the City Chambers for the civic reception.

The visitors brought good weather with them, and for just about the first time this spring the sun shone most of the day.  The format of the Test Match was doubles on the first day and singles on the second, with the singles being double banked.  Each was played best of three games.

On Court 1 Scotland’s Ian Bond got down to business right away and very quickly had his clip on 4-back.  The Australian No. 1 pair, Neil Spooner and George Latham, responded well, but made one or two mistakes, so Ian Bond and Michael Heap were able to finish the first game with a +13 win.  In the second game Ian Bond again quickly got round to 4-back and Michael Heap started on a triple peel, but it came unstuck at rover.  This let Neil Spooner in, but he could make only two hoops before breaking down himself, letting the Scottish pair get in and win the game by +24.  First blood to Scotland, and the first rubber over before lunch!  Ian Bond’s play was so consistent that he played a total of only three turns in the two games.

On Court 2 Stephen Wright also made an early break to 4-back, but Barrie Chambers and Darren Bidencope soon had the upper hand and won +16.  The Australians clinched things in the second game and won the rubber 2-0.

On Court 3 Bill Spalding and Rod Williams lost the first game convincingly, but after lunch they had a much better second game.  The innings changed frequently as the scores rose, but in the end Spencer Buck and Allan Cleland prevailed and won +5, winning the rubber 2-0, so play ended for the day with Australia one rubber up at 2-1.

In the evening the tensions of the court were forgotten as everyone gathered at the Nortons’ for a reception in the true Glasgow Club style and a memorable meal such as only Mrs Norton can provide.

Friday was singles day, and Scotland needed to win four of the six matches to be played.  The sun still shone, and the courts were surrounded by spectators – this most unusual, not to say unique, occasion in Scottish croquet was because of the presence of a coach-load of Australian supporters, who spent the morning watching the match before resuming their sight-seeing.

Michael Heap and Neil Spooner were again adversaries on Court 1.  In a long first game Michael started a triple peel which did not go entirely to plan, and he was left trying to peel rover from ten yards.  This he managed to do, but the peeled ball did not go very far through, and the ball he was playing touched it after running rover.  So he was unable to finish the game but he did peg out one ball.  With two balls, Neil Spooner soon had the innings back and started scoring, always leaving Michael Heap’s solitary ball as far from the peg as possible.  Michael had several fruitless tries at hitting the peg, missing fairly closely every time.  Finally when Neil was for rover and peg, and all set to go out the next turn, Michael hit the peg fair and square.  Their second game was not such a nail-biting one, and it was won by Michael in spectacular style.  In finishing a triple peel he roqueted his own ball after rover, leaving him wired from the peg by rover, with one of Neil’s balls by penultimate.  Michael proceeded to peg out his forward ball through rover while going down to the ball by penultimate!

Meantime on the same court, Allan Cleland was having an easier time than his captain, against Bill Spalding.  In his first game he successfully completed a triple peel and then won the second game also, +24.

More attempts at triple peels were to be seen on Court 2 as well.  In his first game against Rod Williams, Damon Bidencope began a triple peel, scoring the 4-back peel, but failing to do the penultimate peel, and finally sticking himself in rover.  This gave Rod the chance he wanted and he started to catch up, but Damon got back in and won by +6.  In the second game Damon tried another triple peel, but he did not get the first peel done until his own ball was also on 4-back.  His attempted straight triple was further compromised because frequently he found himself held up by Spencer Buck who was doing a standard triple against Geoff Strutt.  This proved to be too much of an obstacle and his attempt failed, but success was not long delayed and he beat Rod Williams 2-0.  Geoff Strutt also fell to his Australian opponent when Spencer won the second game with the triple peel which had plagued Damon’s attempt.

The matches between the second and third ranked players were on Court 3, and these were the only matches to go to three games.  Ian Bond and Barrie Chambers each won a game fairly easily and then had a closely contested third game which Ian finally won for Scotland +5.  At the same time Stephen Wright and George Latham were each winning a game by similar comfortable margins, but in the third game Stephen was unable to match his opponent and went down 2-1.

So Australia won the Test Match overall by six matches to three, which was altogether a very creditable result for Scotland.

With the match over, Saturday was left for enjoyment of a different kind.  Bill Spalding arranged for the visiting players to be taken round a distillery to the south of Edinburgh, followed by sight-seeing in the capital.  In the evening it was arranged that there would be a barbeque supper by the shores of Loch Lomond.  The appointed time came and went, but no food arrived – an hour later it still had not arrived (eventually it transpired that the caterer’s van had been involved in an accident).  But the Glasgow Club were able to take such disasters in their stride, and everyone set off for Campbell Smith’s home in Pollok where they rustled up a grand barbeque for 40 people in no time at all, with soup brought round by Mrs Norton – something not every club could do with no notice at all!  Rumour had it that Campbell’s car was doing a ‘ton’ on the motorway, but then desperate situations need desperate measures.  The Australian visitors showed true friendship when they called into a hotel they were passing and bought cans of beer and bottles of wine to help the party go with a swing, the hotel manager agreeing that such a situation surely entitled him to bend the licensing laws just a wee bit!

And so the visit by the Australian team, which was so enjoyable throughout, ended in a truly happy and memorable way.  The Glasgow Club, and particularly their Secretary Corla van Griethuysen, and the Committee, bore the brunt of arranging the Match, meals, accommodation and entertainment, and the Scottish Croquet Association are very grateful for all that they did.


Match results (Scottish names first):

M. Heap & I. Bond beat N. Spooner & G. Latham +13, +24
S.J.H. Wright & G. Strutt lost to B. Chambers & D. Bidencope -16, -23
W. Spalding & R. Williams lost to S. Buck & A. Cleland -23, -5

M. Heap beat N. Spooner +3, +10stp
S.J.H. Wright lost to G. Latham -16, +17, -18
I. Bond beat B. Chambers -14, +15, +5
W. Spalding lost to A. Cleland -25tp, -24
R. Williams lost to D. Bidencope -6, -24
G. Strutt lost to S. Buck -17, -26tp