Dorothy Steel

HALL OF FAME
Miss Dorothy Dyne Steel

Born: 1884
Died: 1965
Inducted: 2011

Author: Lt Col Leahy

D.D, as she was always known, dominated the game between the two world wars, and was perhaps the first to prove that women could play on equal terms with men.

In the British Open Championship she competed in ten finals, winning four times, and also collected five Doubles Championships and seven Mixed Doubles Championships, in both cases with three different partners.

D.D played in the President’s Cup for 17 consecutive years, recording six wins, and was also involved in a quadruple tie for first place. She won the Women’s Championship 15 times between the two world wars. 

Unsurprisingly, she was a member of three of the four MacRobertson Shield teams in this period, missing only the trip to Australia in 1935 for family reasons.

She was probably the most dominant player between the two wars of either sex.

George Latham

Hall of Fame
George Frederick Latham

Born: 1941
Died: 2010
Inducted: 2012

George Latham was a devotee of croquet and a stalwart of the sport in Victoria and Australia as a player, coach, administrator, innovator and visionary.

George, who was an accomplished sportsman in other areas including hockey, cricket, Australian football, orienteering and marathon running, came to croquet in 1975 when he joined the Essendon (Victoria) club, of which he was later made a Life Member.

As a player, George developed to the point that he held:
. many Victorian titles and team memberships from 1984-2000
. Australian Men's Singles Championship in 1983,1984,1987, 1988, and 1990;
. Australian Open Singles Championship title in 1984 and 1985;
. Australian Open Doubles Championship in 1987, 1988, 1990 and 1991
. Australian Golf Croquet Open Singles Championship in 2002;
. Australian Golf Croquet Handicap Doubles Championship in 2000;
. the British Bronze Medal in 1984 and the Silver Medal in 1986; and
. represented Australia in the MacRobertson Shield in 1986 and 1990, at the WCF World Championships 1989 and 1990, and as a  member of the 1991 Trans-Tasman Team.
 
George was the coach of the 1996, 2003 and 2006 MacRobertson Shield teams, coached the Victorian teams during 2000-2004 and was appointed National Development Squad Coach 2000-06.  At his death, he was the Victorian Director of Coaching and had just completed sessions to reaccredit coaches in eastern Victoria.

George also contributed to the sport as a referee and as an Australian selector in 1992, 1993 and 2000-2004, and as a Victorian selector 2008-2009.

As an administrator, George had a fine record, being:
. President of Essendon Croquet Club in 1984-85 and 2006-07, as well as periods as Secretary, Club Captain, Club Coach, Handicapper and Greenkeeper;
. Secretary of Brunswick Croquet Club 1993-96, President 1997-99
. Senior Vice-President of Victorian Croquet Association 1996-1998, President 1998-2001 and Secretary 2004-2010;
. Vice-President of the Australian Croquet Association in  2001-04

George developed Aussie Croquet as a simplified form of the game for schools and instigated the Croquet Victoria schools program and the Croquet Victoria Schools Championships.

George's vision made him the driving force behind the sale of the previous Croquet Victoria headquarters at Warleigh Grove, Brighton and the construction and development of the current Victorian Croquet Centre with its 12 courts at Cairnlea.

His epitaph, as voiced by his widow, Marion, is "croquet nut".

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.

Patrick Cotter

Hall of Fame
Edmond Patrick Charles Cotter

Born: 1905
Died: 1995
Inducted: 2009

Pat Cotter (front row, second from right) in the 1963 MacRobertson Shield Test Series

Pat Cotter graduated from Trinity College, Dublin with a degree in classics and soon joined the teaching staff at St. Paul’s school, Hammersmith, teaching Latin and Greek. .  During the second World War he was in the R.A.F. in the Intelligence division with the rank of Squadron Leader.  After the war he returned to St. Paul’s as head of classics where he remained until his retirement.

He was an international bridge player, playing regularly at Crockfords and the Devonshire and in 1938 won the World Bridge Championship.  He wrote a weekly article on bridge for the Financial Times and a monthly one for Country Life until shortly before his death. He was also a regular compiler of crosswords for the Times.

Pat Cotter was a scratch golfer and in 1947 was due to play in a competition at the Roehampton club but had sprained his ankle and wandered over to the croquet courts.  He had played a little croquet at university and after a little practice he entered a competition and his handicap was soon down to scratch. Remarkably in 1949, only having played for 2 years he was invited to play in the Presidents Cup and won it, and  went  on to win it another 3 times in the next 4 years. Thus he was the winner on 4 of his first 5 years and in 21 years won it 6 times and was runner-up 5 times.

 He was regarded by Maurice Reckitt as one of the Big Three with Hicks and Solomon and was captain of the winning Great Britain team for the MacRobertson Trophy in England in 1956 and in New Zealand in 1963.  Surprisingly his number of wins in other major events was relatively few, winning the Open Singles only 3 times between 1955 and 1962, 4 Men’s titles between 1952 and 1969, and 2 Mixed doubles, though he did not play in this event very often.   He won the Open Doubles 9 times with John Solomon.

As a player he was extremely accurate with a very light touch and played with a mallet of only 2 lbs 12 ozs, which allowed him to play superb stop shots.  His rushes and split shots were very accurate. He was not a particularly good long shot, probably because he rarely hit the ball hard and even on good courts the ball would veer off line.  He was an excellent tactician and would rarely take a risky shot, preferring to bide his time until his opponent presented him with an opportunity.  He adopted the ploy of peeling his partner ball through the first hoop in his first break, thereby enabling him in his next turn to send the forward ball straight to hoop 3 ready for the triple peel which then became relatively easy and this was soon adopted by many of the better players.  His ball control on hoop running was such that he invariably achieved the rush to wherever he wanted.  He probably created a world record at the time by finishing a best of three doubles in less than one and a half hours, including a stop for morning tea, in a test match at Whangarei in 1963 with his partner Solomon.

He was also instrumental in making relationships between players much more relaxed as he called them by their first names instead of the formal Mr., Mrs, or Miss which was the norm at that time.  His book “Tackle Croquet This Way” was published by Stanley Paul in 1960 in their series on various sports and is a very concise and readable explanation of the basics of the game.

David Openshaw

Hall of Fame
David Openshaw

Inducted: 2013

David Openshaw had a distinguished playing career spanning more than twenty years; his first appearance in the President’s Cup was in 1977, and he played in the MacRobertson Shield in 2000.      He won the Open Championship three times, in1979, 1981 and 1985, and also the Men’s Championship in 1981, 1991 and 1995. He was runner-up in the World Championship in 1991, and made a total of thirteen appearances in the President’s Cup, achieving second place three times.

He played in the MacRobertson Shield five times consecutively, from 1979-1993, and also finally in 2000. Four of these contests were won by Great Britain, a success rate of 66% matched by his personal record of 49 wins out of 72 in singles and doubles. He captained the team four times, and proved to be an inspirational leader, with three successes. A particular contribution was his recognition of the importance of the doubles rubbers, and the selection of the optimum pairings.     By the 1980s the MacRobertson Shield contests had become too long, and he  supported Stephen Mulliner in proposing what is now the current format of a single Test Match between each nation comprising 12 singles and 9 doubles.

As a player he was noted for his skill in winning closely-contested matches, and this created the myth of the ‘Openshaw stopping bisque’.

He served on the CA Council from 1982-1986 and also 1999 -2010, but his most important contribution to croquet administration was as World Croquet Federation President from 2003 to 2009.  He came to the post at a pivotal moment in WCF history because, with the exception of the holding of WCF Association and Golf Croquet World Championships it was generally believed that the WCF had not managed to encourage the development of the sport world-wide to any significant extent.

David provided strong leadership and during his tenure six more events were added to the International Calendar, namely:

  • AC European Team Championship;
  • AC World Women's Championship;
  • GC World Women's Championship;
  • GC World Under 21 Championship;
  • GC World Over 50 Championship;
  • AC World Team Championship.

It is the establishment of the AC World Team Championship that should mark his place in croquet history.  With divergent views of how such an event could be achieved and some reservations among a sceptical membership, a patient but energetic policy of persuasion and diplomacy led to the incorporation of the highly-esteemed MacRobertson Shield event within the framework of an extended competition with different divisions.  This allowed all member countries the opportunity to play team croquet in a format commensurate with their relevant croquet skill base.

The WCF and its Management Committee had a reputation for being a rather impenetrable organisation which made little attempt to advise the wider croquet membership of what was happening.  During David’s presidency, he encouraged the establishment of a 1,000 page web-site with archive material including the minutes of all the meetings held since the WCF’s foundation, a wide range of discussion papers and consultations and a full record of the WCF’s accounts.  In addition, two of the founding principles and objectives of the WCF were awakened from a dormant state, by:

  • the inception of the WCF Development Programme to fund by loan or grant various croquet projects around the world; and
  • the creation of a WCF Hall of Fame to recognise great players and also those who have contributed to the WCF aims.

Last but not least, David continued the globetrotting role of the WCF President established by Tony Hall and made it his business to attend as many WCF events as possible.  He made a special effort to ensure that Egypt, the leading Golf Croquet country, continued to feel fully welcomed into the WCF family and made regular trips to Cairo to play in the International GC Open.

Without David’s tireless work on the many issues that faced the WCF in those days many of those achievements would not have been realised.