The story of croquet in Wagga Wagga dates back to the 19th century when, according to an item in a 1900 Wagga Daily Advertiser, croquet was to be included in the sports to be played in a carnival at the race course early in 1901. No follow up to this has been found.
EXTRACT FROM THE WAGGA WAGGA ADVERTISER
TUESDAY, JULY 27, 1909
“It will be learned with pleasure by lovers of the good old English game of croquet, that this form of amusement has been successfully inaugurated in Wagga. Miss Muriel Hunter, who has been one of the most active spirits in the movement, has succeeded with several other ladies, in forming a club, which already has a good roll of members, all of whom are interested in the success of the venture. An excellent croquet ground has been formed in the plot of land at the rear of Rev. G. A. Carver’s residence Baylis-street, and the opening game of the season, which was played on Saturday afternoon, was well attended by ladies and gentlemen. Considering that the game might be considered the maiden public appearance of Wagga beginners greater proficiency was displayed by the players than could have been looked for. Afternoon tea was provided for those who attended by Mrs H.S.Headley, and the opening was voted a great success. Judging from the comments heard, the game promises to take firm hold in Wagga, as a variation of the more athletic exercises of golf and tennis.”
In the minutes of the Church of England, a discussion was recorded in 1911 as to what to charge the Croquet Club for the use of a lawn. This was when there was a C. of E. building in Baylis Street, with grounds going back to Peter Street, and the lawn where croquet was played in now the parking area behind the Centrelink building.
The first Presidents Board, hanging in the Clubhouse, commenced in 1921, whilst presumably the Club was still in Peter Street, as it moved to the City Bowling Club when that Club was established in the mid-twenties. This board mentions Miss Muriel Hunter as the “Foundress of the Club”; she was of the “Hunter’s newsagency” family, supporters of the Church of England. The President in 1921 was Mrs Rudd.
At the bowling club, croquet had the use of a lawn and a couple of rooms, for which, in lieu of rent, provided afternoon tea for the bowlers, boiling water in a copper.
In the late 1930’s, the bowling club wanted to use the croquet lawn, so negotiations commenced with the Wagga Council for a new site. Various sites were suggested, but were unsuitable, until the present site at Fitzhardinge Street next to Robertson Oval was agreed upon in 1940.
No further action occurred until after the war.
The large block of Crown land, which had been gazetted for recreational purposes only in the nineteenth century, was swampland and required considerable preparation to ensure adequate drainage.
The council prepared 2½ lawns and erected the first clubroom with meeting room, kitchen, toilet and mallet room.
Finally the Club moved to its new location in 1949.
Due to flooding the lawns were not in a satisfactory condition and play continued at the Bowling Club until sometime in 1950. The Clubhouse was officially opened by the Mayor on14th January 1950. A second room was added in 1958, to double the indoor space.
Membership numbers have fluctuated during the history of the Club, but pre-1938 records are missing. However in recent times numbers have grown from 18 in 1987 to about 60 now.
The introduction of Golf Croquet has boosted membership, and the proportion of men to women in both AC and GC has increased.
Congratulations to the Centenary Committee on their great organisation for the day. Visitors included Mrs Robyn Wallace, President of Croquet NSW, Mrs Kay HullMHR, Mr Daryl Maguire MLA, Cr Wayne Geale representing the Mayor, and former members Elmore and Jean Lieschke (Albury), Jane Hargood and Gordon Geraghty (Hurstville) and Maureen Gordon (Frankston) with her husband Lou.
Tables and chairs under marquees (lent by Wagga Rotary) on the grass provided a comfortable setting in unseasonable heat. Peter Lloyd as MC carried the program smoothly, with President Bruce reading a short history of the Club and Noela and Dick Kaylock unveiling the new plaque.
Yvonne Langdon made and donated a beautiful and tasty Centenary cake which was cut by her and Nola Scott. Robyn Willis’s video of photos of the Club and of yesteryear was superbly done, as were her laminated collages of old photos set out on the tables. Val Hinkley’s floral arrangements on the tables were truly beautiful.
Oura CWA ladies catered for the function with a typical abundant “country” afternoon tea, in cramped and hot conditions in the Clubhouse.
A few brave souls finished the afternoon with a game of golf croquet, or the novelty events set up on the practice lawn.
The thanks of the Club go to all those who contributed to the success of the afternoon.