Chris Clarke

Hall of Fame
Chris Clarke

Born: 1971
Inducted: 2010

Chris Clarke discovered croquet as a teenager at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School, Blackburn.  He rose rapidly to the top of the sport and has won every major event in Association Croquet and several in Golf Croquet.  However, this is only a small part of his overall contribution to the game as he has served in many coaching and administrative positions over the past 30 years.  He moved to live in New Zealand in 2005.

In his playing career, Chris has won every major singles title in Association Croquet, including the World Championship (in 1995 and 2008), the Australian, British and New Zealand Open Championships, the President’s Cup, the British Men’s Championship, the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship and the New Zealand Silver Tray.

His doubles record is also extraordinary.  He and Robert Fulford are the only players to have held the Australian, British and New Zealand Doubles Championships simultaneously.  Chris has also won the British Doubles Championship 12 times (including one shared).  In the MacRobertson Shield, he and Robert Fulford have won a record 23 consecutive doubles matches and a record 42 doubles victories in total.  Chris is the also only player to have won the British and New Zealand Open Doubles Championship with more than one partner (Robert Fulford and David Maugham in the former and Robert Fulford, Hamish McIntosh (twice) and Jenny Williams (now Clarke) (four times) in the latter).  He is also the only player to have won 20 national open doubles championships.

His other individual achievements include the first sextuple peel in the Association Croquet World Championship in 1991 and the first delayed sextuple peel in the same event in 1995.  At 17, he was the youngest ever winner of the President’s Cup in 1988 and, at 24, became the youngest ever Great Britain captain in 1996.  In 2007, he completed 20 consecutive triple peels in tournament play.  Chris has appeared in a total of six winning MacRobertson Shield teams – five for Great Britain (1993, 1996, 2000, 2003 and 2006) and one for New Zealand (2014).  He was selected for Great Britain in 2010 but could not play because of health problems.  He was placed first in the Association Croquet world rankings from early 2008 to 2010.

In Golf Croquet, Chris has won several New Zealand titles and reached the semi-finals of the Golf Croquet World Championship in 2008 and 2015.  He was a member of the Rest of the World team that defeated Egypt in 2008 and captained New Zealand to victory in the 2016 Golf Croquet World Team Championship.  He was ranked first in the Golf Croquet world rankings at the end of 2010.

Chris has made a significant contribution to croquet as an administrator.  He served on the CA Council in the early nineties and on the Colchester Club committee for several years.  After moving to New Zealand, he served on the Canterbury Croquet Association committee, first as Tournament Convenor and then as President.  He also served on the CNZ Handicap Review Committee and, for part of 2010, as WCF Secretary-General.  He chaired the Organising Committee for the 2008 Association Croquet World Championship in Christchurch, New Zealand which was seen as one of the best World Championships from a playing perspective and also generated a profit of $25,000 for the benefit of Canterbury clubs.  As a member of the United Club in Christchurch, he was involved in the bid to obtain a new clubhouse and a seventh lawn and also served as the groundsman for several years.  In 2009, he organised a trip to Europe for some NZ Juniors and managed the players in the first Under 21 Golf Croquet World Championship in Egypt.  He has been elected a Life Member of the United Croquet Club and the Canterbury Croquet Association in recognition of his contributions to the sport.

His contribution as a coach has been just as impressive.  For two seasons in the nineties, he coached the Great Britain Under-21 Squad which included Jamie Burch, Kristian Chambers and James Death.  Burch and Death are now MacRobertson Shield players.  Between 2000 and 2005, Chris gave several Gold plus level coaching courses which were recognised as the most detailed and best presented courses that many of the players had ever attended.  Since moving to New Zealand, he has served as the coach of the Under-21 Squad and run coaching courses of the NZ Development Squad in the North Island and several courses for all levels of AC and GC players in Canterbury and Timaru.

 [Updated September 2018]

Jerry Stark

Hall of Fame
Jerry Stark

Born: 1954
Died: 2010
Inducted: 2010

Jerry Stark was a larger-than-life character who made a tremendous impact on croquet both in and beyond the USA.  There is no record of him owning a dog called Toto but that did not stop him from finding his own “yellow brick road” when he moved home.

After discovering tournament croquet in 1983, he quit a lucrative union job with General Motors in Kansas City, Missouri and travelled 1,000 miles to Phoenix, Arizona - to play croquet.  That’s dedication for you!

Jerry got his break into international play in 1987 at the second Wine Country Invitational (later known as the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship) and, in 1990, reached the semi-final of the second WCF Association Croquet World Championship at the Hurlingham Club in London.  He had already made such an impression with his shorts held up by red braces and a huge grin surrounded by a ginger handlebar moustache and viking beard that his photograph made it onto the front page of the London Times newspaper.

Jerry was a member of 17 USA National Teams, competed in the WCF Association Croquet World Championship 10 times and in the Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship 10 times.  He was a USCA National Champion five times and the winner of the inaugural Resort Invitational in Welches, Oregon.  He was elected to the USCA Hall of Fame in 2000.

In 1989, Jerry was named Assistant Director of Croquet at the luxurious resort at Meadowood in Napa Valley, located in the wine country of Northern California.  In 1992, he was promoted to Director of Croquet.  He delighted in introducing guests there to what he called the "grown-up" game of croquet.  At Meadowood, Jerry taught an average of 3,000 lessons a year—more than 60,000 lessons over the course of his career, establishing him as one of the sport’s most prolific and admired teachers.

Throughout the world, Jerry became the face of American croquet.  As an ambassador for the game, he made friends everywhere with his infectious laugh and unvarying good nature.  A giant bear of a man, yet gentle as spring cub, Jerry paved the way for other Americans to succeed in international play.  It was a huge sadness for the croquet world when he passed away at the early age of 56 from cancer in May 2010.

It was a fitting tribute to his croquet career that, only six months earlier, he had been part of the first USA team to defeat Great Britain in the Solomon Trophy.  It is a fitting tribute to him that the USCA National Association Croquet Championship is now played for the Stark Cup.

Neil Spooner

Hall of Fame
Neil Spooner

Born: 1953
Died: 2019
Inducted: 2010

Neil Spooner became a household name in Australia after taking up croquet in 1970 and progressing through the ranks to reach the "A" grade in only nine months.  At his best he was one of the most formidable shots in the game.  Playing with an Irish style and from a firmly planted stance, he had one of the most powerful roquets in the game and often seemed to be unable to miss from any range.

Neil began playing Golf Croquet in 1968 while at Westminster School in Adelaide, South Australia. Tom and Jean Armstrong had introduced the game to Neil at the school and he quickly became their star pupil.

Neil was chosen to represent Australia at the MacRobertson Shield in 1974, 1979, 1982 and 1986, the latter as captain.  He chose not to travel with the 1979 team for personal reasons.

Neil also represented South Australia on eight occasions, three as captain.

He won ten national titles between 1975 and 1986 including the Australian Open Singles, Australian Men’s Singles, Australian Open Doubles and the English Silver Medal.

In 1987, Neil and his wife, Theresa, moved to California to take up a position as Director of Croquet at Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards after being targeted by the President of the winery for that position.  His duties were to be responsible for the day to day running of the croquet activities and to organize a world class charity croquet tournament each year.  The Sonoma-Cutrer World Championship ran from 1986 to 2004 and was the first international singles event in croquet.

While in America, Neil introduced many people to croquet and coached.  He competed in several tournaments and among his successes were the Arizona Open in 1988 and 1989, the San Francisco Open in 1987, the Meadowood Classic, the Masters of Croquet, the California Open and several other events including the U S Open, which was an event organized by the American Croquet Association.  The ACA was a rival to the USCA and promoted Association Croquet (known as International Rules in the USA) while the USCA promoted the American version of croquet, known as “U.S. Rules”.

Neil became an extremely skilful exponent of U.S. Rules and became the first person to complete a triple peel in that code of the game which is much more difficult than in Association Croquet because of the restrictions on rushing a ball off the boundary.  He completed five U.S. Rules triple peels between 1988 and 1993.  He also became the first and so far only player to complete a three-ball triple peel in U.S. Rules tournament play, once at a Meadowood singles event and again in the Arizona Open.

During the San Francisco Open, Neil managed to defeat one opponent by a score of 26 to 1.  This is a rare feat in US Rules because all players start from a position three feet in front of hoop 1 and can normally expect to score at least two points!  Neil went on to achieve the even more impressive US Rules score line of 26 to 0 - a result referred to today as a "full Spooner" with the 26 - 1 score line being referred to as the "half Spooner".

A warm and engaging man with a well-developed sense of humour, Neil was always prepared to share his knowledge with anyone who cared to ask, irrespective of their level of ability.

Tony Hall OBE

Hall of Fame
Tony Hall OBE

Born: 1932
Inducted: 2009

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.

[Updated August 2017]


Bernard Neal

Hall of Fame
Bernard George Neal

Born: 29 March 1922
Died: 26 March 2016
Inducted: 2012

Bernard Neal joined the Croquet Association (England) in 1963.  In just four years he had scaled the heights by being selected for the Surrey Cup (the second ‘Eight’ at that time) in 1965, the first Chairman’s Salver in 1966 and the President’s Cup in 1967 – an event in which he eventually played eleven times.  He won the Men’s Championship in 1967, the Open Championship twice, in 1972 and 1973, the Ranelagh Gold Cup at Roehampton on three occasions, the Hurlingham Cup twice and the Veterans.  He also represented Great Britain in three MacRobertson Shield series - in 1969, 1974 and 1979.

But his prowess on the croquet court was more than matched by his contributions to the game off it.  He was elected to the CA Council in 1966 and in the following year he was appointed Chairman of the Publicity Committee.  In those days words like ‘development’ and ‘coaching’ were not part of the CA’s vocabulary – although ‘survival’ was.  Within a year Bernard made sure that they became central to the CA’s discussions: a coaching scheme was mooted and he explored the possibilities of obtaining government funding (for both the CA and its clubs).  The latter bore fruit almost immediately in the form of a grant towards the costs of the 1969 Test Tour to Australia.  He then led discussions with the Central Council for Physical Recreation and the newly-formed Sports Council which resulted in the first of the latter’s annual grants to the CA, eventually spanning twenty-eight years and making a huge contribution to the CA’s finances and activity.  The first grant aid, in 1970, was for both administration and development: it enabled the CA to give more than a pittance of an honorarium to its Secretary, but more significantly it provided financial support for the CA to initiate a development programme.  The scheme was initially a modest affair but was not without its detractors, who feared radical change in the ethos of the game.  (This even caused some notoriety in the national press and led to the forced resignation of the Gazette Editor!).  Seminars for coaches were held and two volunteers, Barbara Meachem and Liz Neal, acted as development officers in the North and South respectively.  Armed only with some basic croquet equipment and publicity materials, they were expected to support existing weak clubs, explore the potential for new clubs and even to try to set up clubs where circumstances seemed favourable.  The momentum they generated eventually led to the appointment of Chris Hudson as the CA’s National Development Officer and the establishment of the CA’s Coaching and Development Committees which now manage comprehensive schemes to help and support both individual players and clubs, all funded from the CA’s own resources.

Bernard’s balanced judgement and tact made him the obvious choice to replace Dudley Hamilton-Miller as Manager of the 1969 Test Team when the latter had to withdraw, literally at the last minute, due to ill-health.  He won universal praise from the Australians and New Zealanders during the tour and, since then, he became a highly respected unofficial ambassador for the CA on the world Croquet stage.  His advice and guidance were key elements in the CA’s leading role in the period preceding the establishment of the World Croquet Federation in 1989, and Bernard’s influence was significant in the CA hosting several World Championships. About 1990 Bernard and Liz went to Japan and managed to persuade the Japanese to take up Association Croquet.

Following three years as Publicity Chairman, Bernard was elected Vice-Chairman of Council from 1970 to 1972 and Chairman from 1972 to 1974, achieving the unique distinction of winning the Open Championship in both his years at the helm.  He then served on numerous Council committees, many as chairman.  When he was Chairman of the Laws Committee he wrote ‘The Basic Laws’ – just one example of his tireless efforts to improve the CA’s provision for its members.

He often acted in a discreet, but effective, way to help the Association. Thus in 2001-2, when the CA was searching for a new location for its headquarters, Cheltenham, his home club, became one of the three contenders – Bernard had worked his magic!  Whilst the outcome was in doubt Bernard, of course, took a back seat in Council discussions, but when the decision to move to Cheltenham had been made, he (with other Cheltenham club members) did their utmost to make the transition as smooth, and the welcome as warm, as possible.  In 2004, Bernard was the obvious and unanimous choice to succeed John Solomon as the President of the Croquet Association, a position he decided to relinquish at the 2009 AGM.

It might be thought that Bernard had little time for anything but Croquet.  But he had distinguished professional and sporting careers in the world beyond, and brought benefits from both to our more modest domain.  As an internationally respected civil engineer, he was instrumental in making the CA see the need for, and the benefits arising from, standard specifications for croquet equipment.  He led from the front in devising ball-testing equipment and chairing the Equipment Committee which has now established a set of standards recognised worldwide and tests new equipment on a regular basis.

Bernard was a highly competitive county tennis player. His prowess included being Captain of Lawn Tennis at Cambridge University around 1945 and that offered him membership of the All England Lawn Tennis and Croquet Club where he became long-standing member, serving on its main committee for many years and winning more Wimbledon (croquet) championship titles (38) than any other person – a good pub quiz question!  He was one of a small group of members who effectively resurrected croquet at Wimbledon in the post-war era, and it is largely due to Bernard’s influence that it now has a much closer relationship with the CA.  The Croquet Exhibition at Wimbledon during the CA’s centenary year, the gift of the Wimbledon Cup for the Association Croquet World Championship, and several notable CA functions held at Wimbledon would never have happened but for his behind-the-scenes work.

Bernard preferred quiet diplomacy and was modest about his achievements.  This citation is thus inevitably deficient in not recognising many of the benefits he brought to Croquet, particularly at a personal level.  Thus it is impossible to chronicle how generous and supportive he, and Liz, were to many (especially younger) players - they were even known to accommodate whole test teams on occasions!  But what has been noted here gives ample evidence that the CA, and the whole croquet world, owe an enormous debt of gratitude to someone who worked ceaselessly for Croquet for well over forty years and who, by setting the highest standards in all that he did, was a worthy recipient of the prestigious CA Council Medal.

Bernard was survied by his wife Liz until 2023, when she passed away shortly before her 101st birthday.