Salah Hassan was born in Egypt and discovered Golf Croquet in 1982 when two friends invited him to try the game at the Shooting Club, one of the leading sports clubs in Cairo. He was immediately attracted to the game and it was to become his main recreational activity for the next four decades. He was willing to practice intensively for up to five hours a day and soon became an active competitor in the many annual team and individual tournaments organised by the Egyptian Croquet Federation.
He won the Egyptian Singles Championship in 1996 and 2001, the Men’s Doubles Championship in 1998 (with Ahmed El Mahdy) and 2000 (with Mohammed Essam) and the Mixed Doubles Championship (with Nahed Hassan) in 1999.
Egypt joined the World Croquet Federation (“WCF”) in 1996 and the reputation of its players as the best exponents of Golf Croquet in the world helped to raise the profile of the game in the more traditional croquet countries which had hitherto regarded Association Croquet as the only serious competitive form of croquet.
The WCF held the first Golf Croquet World Championship in Italy in 1996 and followed it four further World Championships in 1997, 1998, 2000 and 2002. These were dominated by Khaled Younis (EGY), the winner in 1996, 1998 and 2002, and by Salah, who was World Champion in 1998 and 2000.
Salah also reached the final of the Golf Croquet World Championship in 2002 and 2006 and, shortly after his 50th birthday, won the Over-50 Golf Croquet World Championship in 2014.
In recent years, Salah has focused on coaching the younger Egyptian players such as Karim Ghamry, Amr El Ibiary and Mohamed Karem, who reached the final of the Golf Croquet World Championship in 2019.
Tony Hall has devoted himself to croquet for more than twenty years, both as a player and an administrator. He served as an active and ambitious President of the World Croquet Federation from 1998 to 2003 and then promptly undertook the role of Treasurer of the Australian Croquet Association from 2004 to 2012. Before becoming President of the World Croquet Federation, he had served as as President of his club and of the Croquet New South Wales and as the Senior Vice-President of Australian Croquet Association.
Tony spent 38 years in the Australian Army, joining in 1949 and serving overseas in the Antarctic, Malaya, England, Thailand, Vietnam and Papua New Guinea. He retired as a full Colonel in 1987 and was awarded the OBE. He gained considerable administrative experience both as an officer and from playing and being actively involved in the administration of hockey, squash and swimming. He helped to start a hockey club, was secretary of the Canberra Veterans Hockey Association for three years and represented his State for ten years. He served as the treasurer of a squash club for 14 years and spent ten years administering a swimming club in which time he became a senior swimming referee and was made a life member of the club after it became the top club in Australia. His involvement with swimming also gave him direct experience of high level sports politics with the New South Wales and Australian Swimming Associations.
He took up croquet in 1989 became Secretary of the Canberra Croquet Club within months of joining and then its Treasurer after two years. As President of Croquet NSW from 1993 to 1996, he visited all NSW clubs, helping to increase membership from 48 to 62 clubs in three years. During his term as President of the WCF he visited all 24 countries who were then members and ten other potential members.
In 1998 to 2006, he acted as chairman of the first WCF Golf Croquet Rules Committee and then continued to serve as Australia's representative until 2013. The adoption of the new rules in 2001 are widely regarded as greatly assisting the dramatic increase in the popularity of Golf Croquet all over the world.
On becoming its President, Tony had several ambitions for the WCF. He wanted it to become a genuine international body for croquet, having responsibility for the rules of the games of Association Croquet and Golf Croquet, for organising international competitions and for standardising handicapping and everything that happens on the court. He also wanted to expand the number of office bearers and officers so that the duties of the Secretary-General could be delegated among a larger number of administrators. He also performed the duties of the Secretary-General as well as those of the President for one year in the middle of his term before finding a replacement for the inaugural incumbent and a number of other officers. He saw most of these ambitions realised during his term if office and some of those that remained, such as the management of the Laws of Association Croquet and of the MacRobertson Shield, have since been brought under the WCF umbrella.
Since 1990, Tony travelled around the world every year to play and administer croquet, including attending every World Championship and MacRobertson Shield competition. He played in the Australian Association Croquet Championships every year and has been ranked in the top hundred in the world. He has played in the British, New Zealand, Irish, Canadian, German and United States Association Croquet National Championships and in all other WCF countries with courts, winning the German Open in 2001. He also won the British GC Open Doubles and won his Australian tracksuit in 1998 to play for Australia in the third Golf Croquet World Championships. Since then he has since played in five more Golf Croquet World Championships, with a best placing of twentieth. From 2001 to 2006 he represented NSW in the Australian Interstate Association Croquet Championship and also represented NSW in 2007 and 2008 in the first two Australian Interstate Golf Croquet Championship. He won the 2002 and 2005 National Golf Croquet Handicap Championship, the 2004 Australian Golf Croquet Open Singles Championship and, in 2005, won the NSW and Queensland Open Singles Association Croquet championships. While doing all this, he also played hockey with his veterans’ team for twenty years, touring England, New Zealand, Canada, South Africa, Australia and South America!
Tony also found time to serve for five years as Tournament Referee of the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championships in California and as the Tournament Referee for the 1997 WCF Golf Croquet World Championship at Leamington Spa. He also acted as a referee in almost all the world level events since then until 2011.
Tony is a widower with three children and seven grandchildren. He has displayed an extraordinary amount of energy and commitment to croquet and other sports since his retirement in 1989 both as a player and, above all, as an administrator who knew how to run sports bodies to a very high standard. The world of croquet owes him a considerable debt.
John Graham Prince commenced playing Croquet at the NaeNae Croquet Club situated in the Lower Hutt Hospital grounds in 1959 by sheer chance. As a 14-year old schoolboy, he had seen the game being played from the local swimming baths that overlooked the Lower Hutt Croquet Club in Riddiford Gardens. He was intrigued and, after borrowing "Croquet Today" by Maurice Reckitt from the local library, became even more fascinated. He visited the NaeNae Club near his home and was fortunate to be invited to have a game by members Melba Miller and Muriel Palmer. Shortly afterwards, Ashley Heenan was approached and agreed to coach John.
John’s croquet career took off when, aged 17 and with practically no tournament experience, he made a late debut into the 1963 New Zealand MacRobertson Shield team after winning his singles and doubles matches for a North Island team against the Australian visitors. He caused something of a sensation during the third Test Match between England and New Zealand when he defeated John Solomon, then universally regarded as the best player in the world. Interestingly, Solomon had himself been selected to play in the 1950/51 MacRobertson Shield against New Zealand when aged only 18 and with a similar lack of tournament experience!
John went on to reach the semi-finals of the 1963 New Zealand Open Championship where Solomon gained his revenge but, nonetheless gained his first national title when he won the New Zealand Men's Championship, in the process of which he defeated the English Test Match players Humphrey Hicks in the semi-finals and Bryan Lloyd-Pratt in the final.
Over the following years, John amassed an impressive number of national titles, including eight New Zealand Open Championships, ten New Zealand Men’s Championships and eight victories in the senior invitation event for the “Best Ten” or “Best Eight” players. He also won eleven New Zealand Doubles Championships and the British Open Doubles Championship in 1974.
In 1969, he was appointed captain of the New Zealand MacRobertson Shield for the first time and went on to do so on four further occasions including two Shield victories in 1979 and 1986. He holds three MacRobertson Shield records, namely by being the youngest player ever to compete, by playing in nine series and the first player to play 100 matches in the event.
On 30 March 1970, at Hastings during the final of the Hawkes Bay Easter Invitation John became the first player to complete a sextuple peel in a competition.
John’s contribution to croquet was not confined to playing and winning major events. He was involved in attempts to publicize Croquet, including an early television demonstration in the days of black and white TV, and wrote several newspaper articles about the national Croquet scene. He served on the New Zealand Croquet Council for several years and was involved especially with international matters, selection for international and domestic events and tournament formats and conditions. He provided illustrations for the CNZ publications "Approaching Croquet", and later wrote and illustrated "Practice with a Purpose", followed by a set of supplementary booklets. He was always keen to see that younger players and those who work were given as much opportunity to compete and so ensured the major events in New Zealand Croquet Council tournaments were played over weekends wherever possible.
Winning the MacRobertson Shield has always been John’s top priority. Throughout his career, he has been constantly on the lookout for potential team members and has provided encouragement and support to many up and coming New Zealand players. One of his most significant contributions in this regard was his skilful mentoring of a very shy youngster called Paddy Chapman who is now one of the world’s top ranked players.
John Jaques II was the grandson of Thomas Jaques who founded a company in 1795 that can claim to be the oldest manufacturer of games in the world. Thomas was a farmer’s son of French Huguenot descent whose recent forebears had found refuge in England sometime after 1685 when the Edict of Nantes forbade Protestantism in France.
Thomas’ son John went into partnership with him and so began a long family tradition which survives to today. Originally, the firm described itself as a “Manufacturer of Ivory, Hardwoods, Bone, and Tunbridge Ware” but John’s son, John Jaques II, built a reputation for Jaques & Son as a publisher of games.
John Jaques II enjoyed considerable success in promoting croquet and it speedily became the vogue, not only in England but also in Europe and throughout the British Empire. Croquet became especially popular in India, reportedly played by The Viceroy himself with a solid ivory mallet, which was probably made by Jaques as part of their finest set of croquet equipment.
The attractions of croquet were obvious with the benefit of hindsight. It allowed fashionable people to step outside the claustrophobic Victorian parlour and "take exercise" and enjoy the fresh air without any risk of breaking into a sweat. It provided an opportunity to show off their finery which is probably why the term "crinoline croquet" entered the lexicon. It also provided young men and women a legitimate reason for mingling and sometimes wandering off into the proverbial rhododendron bushes, momentarily out of sight of the ever-present chaperones!
"Nothing but tobacco smoke has ever spread as rapidly" commented Dr. Prior, an early enthusiast of the game. Certainly, Jaques and Son, as the modern firm of Jaques of London was then called, had no trouble selling large quantities of croquet equipment. By the early 1860s, John Jaques II was regarded as the greatest authority on the game and, in 1864, wrote and published Croquet; the Laws and Regulations of the Game which is recognizably the foundation of the modern laws of Association Croquet.
Arthur George Francis Ross was born in Christchurch New Zealand and was the third son of Edward James and Ginny Ross (nee Cox). His father was the founding Secretary of the United Tennis, Bowls and Croquet Club in Christchurch and was a driving force in the formation of the New Zealand Croquet Council in 1920.
Arthur subsequently attended Christ's College in Christchurch and took up croquet in his teens. In 1915, he won his major title, the New Zealand Doubles Championship with H.A. Penn, and was also runner-up to Keith Izard in the New Zealand Singles Championship.
He fought in World War 1 where, in the latter stages, he was gassed at Ypres. His two brothers were both killed in action.
During his many months of convalescence at Hanmer Springs, he refined his game and evolved his distinctive and memorable style before resuming play in the 1920 New Zealand Championships where he again won the Doubles Championship with Penn.
Following recuperation, he became a poultry farmer and later a schoolteacher in North Canterbury, New Zealand, a position which also required him to drive the school bus over hazardous back country roads. He retired in 1951.
His croquet success continued and he won the New Zealand Singles Championship 11 times, was runner-up a further eight times, won the New Zealand Men Championship six times and the British Open Championship in 1954.
In 1930, he made his debut in the MacRobertson Shield, eventually representing New Zealand no less than six times and captained the first New Zealand team to win the Shield in 1950.
At various times, he held every office on the New Zealand Croquet Council (President 1928-1930, Secretary 1932-1935, Vice-President and Referee 1935-1952) and started the New Zealand Croquet Council Gazette as editor, at his own expense. He wrote "Croquet and How to Play it" which ran to no less than five editions and, due to his acknowledged international authority on the Laws of the Game, the "Powers and Duties of an Umpire" in 1946.
He was actively involved in coaching around the country, often finding himself battling to hold breaks together while demonstrating on some odd proportioned lawns at out of the way clubs, playing with a pipe in his mouth that he would sometimes throw to the boundary as his break became more involved.
In 1952, he was officially recognised as a leading luminary in the sport with the award of a Life Membership of the New Zealand Croquet Council.
He was married twice, namely to Violet Ross (nee Minchen), who died in 1974, and to Lena Ross (nee Ashworth) who also died in 1974. He had three sons, Hugh (b.1925, d.1992), Terence (b.1927), Peter (b.1940) and his only daughter Jean (b.1930) was at one time married to Ashley Heenan.
Arthur was a wonderfully kind hearted man. When asked late in life about his croquet record, he only reluctantly gave the details but said that his grandchildren were his best record.
Sometimes known as “The father of the triple peel”, Arthur Ross died at Motueka, New Zealand in 1975.
In 1979, the Ross family and his son-in-law, Ashley Heenan presented to the New Zealand Croquet Council the Arthur Ross Memorial Trophy for the New Zealand National Handicap Event to encourage croquet at grass roots level, something in which Ross believed passionately.
Nigel's rise to the top of the sport was nothing short of spectacular. Studying as an undergraduate at Bristol University, he arrived as a new member at the local Bristol club in 1965 at the age of 19 or so and was immediately given a handicap of six. He had, he later explained, played a bit at home from the age of 12 or so. His father had bought a second-hand croquet set and the family had played on a former grass tennis court - despite two Victoria plum trees. They made up their own rules.
In Bristol, he discovered the real game. "I could," he says, "hit one ball on to another, at, say, 10 or 15 yards, and I think I had a basic idea of tactics. But I was playing roll shots inaccurately, and I think I was still playing the sequence game."
A few weeks after arriving at Bristol his handicap was reduced to 3. He had time before the end of the season for a weekend tournament at Cheltenham and a visit to Parkstone in September. Next season, with a handicap of 1, he played in the Open Championship at the suggestion of a fellow club member, John Simon. Together, they won the Open Doubles Championship. Both were then selected for the President's Cup and Aspinall came joint second to William Ormerod.
Nigel had gone from his first tournament to selection for the President's Cup in just 10 months! What is all the more remarkable is that there were no lessons on the way. All he did was to ask a few questions. As he said: "You pick it up like that, really." Neither did he ever enjoy the luxury of fistfuls of bisques.
The record books show that, having risen to the top so effortlessly, he stayed there for over 20 years. In that time, he won the Men's Championship twice, the Open Championship eight times and the President's Cup 11 times, a record that was equalled in 2012 (by Robert Fulford) but has yet to be surpassed. He won the Open Championship three times in a row twice (1974 to 1976 and 1982 to 1984) and he won four President's Cups back to back (1973 to 1976). He played in the MacRobertson Shield four times, from 1969 to 1986. It is worth remembering that when he wasn't actually winning championships, he was usually the runner-up.
Prichard in his The History of Croquet described Nigel as a "practical, match-winning machine," and he was considered by some to be more or less unbeatable for some years. "No," he says, "not quite unbeatable. No. There were all sorts of people who would occasionally beat me, and equally there were one or two people who found me - um - difficult."
"I think I had the ability to concentrate very well. If you are concentrating 100%, it takes wild horses to drag you off your stride." Another quality he had was self-belief.
However, the player who gains the greatest praise from Aspinall himself is John Solomon who, with himself, had a quality of "naturalness" of swing, shown often to perfection.
Aspinall always felt he was at his peak round about 1975, when from the end of 1974 to 1976 he won 24 consecutive games in the President's. "I'd won some in '74, all in '75 and the first five or six in '76. It was Colin Prichard who broke my run."
He believes in practising "a little", and he offers this advice on the subject: "Try to make it exciting. For example, I have a routine of six-yard roquets, where you put four balls in a line and another four parallel six yards away, and the idea is that you hit as many consecutive shots as possible. Say you hit three in a row and then miss. You then have to zero your counter and start again. But this time - say a week later - you have to improve on three. As soon as you do, stop. Don't let it become boring. In other words, give yourself a target and improve on it."
Aspinall eventually gave up top-level play in 1995 when he learned he was diagnosed as having dangerously high blood pressure. Commenting he said, " I reckoned it wasn't a good idea to increase the stress levels."
Nigel Aspinall was one of the supreme technicians of the game with his famed touch and control. His incisiveness and fluency may have been "machine-like", but, unlike any machine, he sought to extend the notions of the possible. To see Nigel in full flow in his hey-day, usually playing with a battered old mallet - one from his father's second-hand set, was to see croquet perfection.
Nigel is a modest man who claimed to only one significant contribution to the sport, namely that of introducing International Rules to the East Coast of the USA in 1974 on his first visit there. However, those who saw him in action in the 1970s and 1980s do not accept such a limited account of his influence on the game. He was the natural successor to John Solomon as the best player in the world and maintained that reputation until almost the dawn of the youthful revolution in English croquet in the late 1980s.
John Solomon was born in Wandsworth, South London and emerged onto the tournament croquet scene in 1948 when Croquet could be said to be hanging by a thread. Affected by the social changes brought about by the war, the restrictions of rationing and the loss of many clubs and about half of the Croquet Association’s membership, it seemed to be a game almost exclusively for old people and doomed to fizzle out in the next decade or so. Fortunately for Croquet, John appeared and, aided by youth and exceptional ability, did much to keep the flame alive for the next fifteen years.
John made such rapid progress in his first two seasons and gave such a clear indication of his potential that, when a vacancy arose, the selectors were inspired to ask him to join the England team for the 1950/51 Test series in New Zealand. This was despite the fact that he was only 18 at the time and had never played in a championship or won a major event. However, the decision proved to be a resounding success and John not only played extremely well in the Test Matches but won the New Zealand Open Championship and Doubles Championship for good measure.
He returned home to begin a croquet career that, spurred on by his rivalry with Patrick Cotter and Humphrey Hicks, dominated the English game for over twenty years. He amassed ten Open Championships, ten Men’s Championships, ten Doubles Championships, nine President’s Cups, four Champion of Champions victories, a Mixed Doubles Championship and two New Zealand Open and Doubles Championships, a total of 48 championship titles. It was an extraordinary tally which remained unequalled until 2012.
John also represented England or Great Britain in the MacRobertson Shield on five occasions from 1950 to 1974. However, it is not for just for his many successes that croquet players should be indebted to him. Instead, what mattered more was the manner in which he achieved his success and how he was willing to use the legendary status that his success brought him to promote Croquet.
Top sportsmen in any discipline are frequently idiosyncratic. Not all play their sport in a way that catches the eye and persuades the casual onlooker to stay and watch. John Solomon’s special talent was to make croquet look easy, rhythmic and elegant. He was really good to watch and it was clear that some came to the major events to watch John Solomon play croquet rather than to watch croquet as such. When the media could be persuaded to take an interest in croquet and see John in action, they could not fail to be impressed by the sheer quality of the man and his performance. Croquet might not be able to avoid the impression that it was a game suitable for the elderly but, with John Solomon on court, it was obvious that it was also a game of great skill and precision and one for all ages. He was not content just to reel off the wins. He particularly enjoyed pushing the boundaries by trying new openings and tactics. Some of his feats still reverberate today – the three-ball triple against Cotter in 1964, the jump over rover to hit the peg and beat Aspinall in 1969 and, perhaps most remarkable of all, his single-handed win in the 1972 Open Doubles Championship where he peeled the absent Cotter’s ball through all 12 hoops – twice.
John Prince, another croquet legend who met John in New Zealand in 1963, said that the Solomon effect was to give the spectator the impression that they were watching a virtuoso playing a favourite piece of music and that John was to croquet what Roger Federer is to tennis. The resemblance to Federer is particularly apt in another important aspect of competition – demeanour on court and sportsmanship. In play, John never lost his self-control, let alone his temper, and always treated the twin impostors of defeat and victory just the same. Like Dudley Hamilton-Miller, a slight pursing of the lips or, in extremis, half-raising an eyebrow would be the only visible reaction to some misfortune. It was tellingly said of John that if you observed him walking off the court with his opponent you would have no inkling of the result. He was simply the consummate sportsman.
English croquet has always been fortunate that its best players generally feel an obligation to put something back into the game. John was no exception and threw himself into croquet administration and promotion. He became Chairman of Council at the age of 30 and, later in life, served as President of the Croquet Association for 22 years from 1982 to 2004. His legendary status drew many invitations from outside the UK and his visits to croquet clubs in the Channel Islands, France, Ireland, Italy, South Africa, Switzerland and the USA were greatly appreciated and played an important part in encouraging the game and sometimes in assisting the birth of organised croquet.
In particular, he led the Hurlingham team that travelled to the USA in 1967 to play the Westhampton Mallet Club. He met the late Jack Osborn, the founder of the US Croquet Association, and Jack expressly acknowledged the impact of John’s strong advice that the most important first step in establishing a national croquet body was to develop a single, agreed set of rules.
From that flowed the formation of the USCA in 1981, the involvement of American players in international croquet, the first Test between the USA and Great Britain at Nottingham in 1985, the establishment in 1988 of the Solomon Trophy for annual competition between Great Britain and the USA and the admission of the USA to the MacRobertson Shield in 1993. As the senior international croquet statesman, John made a truly great contribution which fully complemented his illustrious playing career.
His legacy is a game established in almost 30 countries throughout the world and a succession of champions who have followed in John’s footsteps over the last 50 years. Nigel Aspinall, Keith Wylie, Robert Fulford, Reg Bamford and Robert Fletcher are the names that spring immediately to mind. But it is very uncertain what the present position would have been and whether any of them would have become players and champions had the young John Solomon not taken up the game almost 70 years ago and played it so expertly and beautifully.