AFTER THE MACROB -
NEW LETTERS AND COMMENTARY
BRITS HAVE A NATURAL ADVANTAGE
IN A SMALL COUNTRY
My overall impression of the Mac was that the standard of play was not
very high, but then it never is. I think the pressure of playing for
their country gets to all the players, and they play below their normal
standard. Too many hoops failed from short range, too many breaks put
down and too many poor leaves. However, there were other moments of
We won simply because we had the best players, and it is not always easy
for a traveling team to be its strongest. Having said that, I think we
have a natural advantage in being a small country. Most of our top players
can play over a hundred competitive games a year and have the choice of the
Opens, the Men's, four regional championships and the Coles, and
probably not have to travel more than a hundred or so miles to any of them. Players
learn quickly through experience and by association with better players. From
time to time it was clear that some of the US team were not adopting the
right line of play. We also learn to play on indifferent courts with tight
and firm hoops. In these circumstances control has to be very good (or
hitting very straight).
The US team performed very creditably and the match scores, particularly
against Great Britain, did not reflect the closeness of some of the
games. We know about Jerry [Stark], of course, but John Taves and Wayne Rodoni
in particular showed great potential.
--Bill Lamb, Chairman of Council, [British] Croquet Association
THE LAST WORD ON 1996 MACROB STATISTICS
I enjoyed the essay "After the MacRob." You said that Taves and
Rodoni had the best records. How about some specifics on individual and team
performance? Can't we just clone Taves and Rodoni and win the next
Won't work, sorry. Cloning Rodoni and Taves produces a victory over New
Zealand and Australia, but not against the Great Britain juggernaut.
Each MacRob player had two singles matches to play in each test and
three doubles matches: 6 singles matches and 9 doubles in the entire series,
or a total of 15 matches overall. The American team members' record in games
and matches is given below, in descending order of performance.
The most relevant numbers, of course, are "matches won." Each MacRob
player had two singles matches to play in each of the three tests against New
Zealand, Great Britain, and Australia, and each doubles team played
three matches in each test: a total of 6 singles matches and 9 doubles matches
during the entire series. On that basis, the players' overall
performance can be evaluated on a "percentage of wins" basis as follows:
games matches games matches
won won won won
John Taves 9 4 8 3
Wayne Rodoni 8 3 8 3
Jerry Stark 7 3 8 2
Erv Peterson 4 1 8 2
John Osborn 1 0 0 0
Bob Rebuschatis 1 0 0 0
The top four members of the team had winning percentages (more than
fifty percent) in the first test, against New Zeland. In the final test,
against Australia, only Rodoni and Taves had winning percentages, each of them
winning both their singles matches, and together scoring one out of
three in doubles.
SINGLES DOUBLES OVERALL
WIN % WIN % WIN %
John Taves 67 34 47
Wayne Rodoni 50 34 40
Jerry Stark 50 22 34
Erv Peterson 17 22 20
John Osborn 0 0 0
Bob Rebuschatis 0 0 0
______ _______ _______
Cumulative 31% 19% 24%
Note that in the above analysis of individual performances, the doubles
matches are necessarily counted twice, and the Americans did not do as
well in doubles as in singles. Therefore, the actual overall team
performance is a little better than shown above in the cumulative individual
performance percentages. It comes out to a little over 25 percent.
"EVERY DAY WAS LIKE STARTING A NEW TOURNAMENT," SAYS RODONI
To compete well in international events, what Americans have to learn,
most of all, is how to handle the slow pace of match play, the way it is
usually scheduled. Match play (the best two out of three) untimed, in the
Macrob, means that only one match a day can be scheduled. Although there is the
occasional marathon match, what usually happens is that you're waiting
around for a long time to play, and at the end of the day, you're waiting
around AFTER playing. (Except for the last week, at Cheltenham, where there
were lots of courts, there was no opportunity to practice on idle courts or
Americans are not accustomed to this kind of pace. We have to find or
develop players who can grind away, day after day, at a snail's pace,
and still keep up their hitting. It was a problem for me. I tend to start
a tournament slow and gradually get my swing on and improve throughout the
tournament, gain momentum.
Every day was like starting a new tournament again. I never got
comfortable with my game, I had many opportunities I didn't capitalize on, and there
were too many games I didn't finish off and wound up losing for that reason.
John Taves didn't have that problem, he got stronger as the tournament
went on, but he was the exception on the team.
I'm not criticizing the format of the MacRobertson. It's great. I'm
only saying that the American team has to be composed of players who either
by natural temperament or by training can handle this kind of pace. The
best way to find those players, I think, is to consult the top 25 most
successful players in the country, based on their tournament performance. Those
players know how to take the measure of other players. They know which players
can stand up well to the pressure and handle the pace.
Going into the tournament, I don't think that factor was taken into
account. It's an important lesson we can take away from MacRob '96.
--Wayne Rodoni, U.S. MacRobertson Team
TEAM SELECTION AND TRAINING KEY FACTORS FOR TAVES
The U.S. team didn't get properly prepared mentally for the tournament.
Before each day's play we would say some phrases like "gut it out", "get
psyched", and "they will come after us today". Only later in the
tournament did we get more honest and discuss parts of our play that needed to be
worked on. We didn't work with Rebo to get over his nerves and fix the
problems he had with his game until it was too late. I worked with him during the
third week on both his hoops and rushes, and the help made a difference, but I
should have tried to help on the first day. We should have been
spending more time practicing after the day's play and also on our days off.
Rebo's nervousness could only be conquered by practice.
Our team made too many mistakes. I dropped several breaks and failed to
build some that I should have. I haven't played enough tournaments
lately, and that certainly contributed. Your comments on the amount of play we
get is exactly right. I would like to start a "president's cup" here in the
US, a tournament that would guarantee that at least eight of the top 12 or
16 players in the US would show up. The selection committee could pick the
top 12 or 16 players, then the tournament director would call and find out
which eight could make it. If eight couldn't come, then the tournament would
be called off. This would guarantee that the tournament was strong.
Since there are too few tournaments that attract top players, I think it
is important to make sure that the ones we do go to have the top players.
This tournament could be held anywhere, and I would like to make it one large
block over a long weekend. Actually, I should get it going in Seattle
right now. Unfortunately, I am too busy with my son to take the leadership on
this. Seattle will host it if someone will organize it.
I only have a few weeks off each year, so I pick my tournaments very
carefully. My criteria is: how many top players will be there and how
many games will I get per day. The top choices are the Arizona Open (not as
many games as it could be), San Francisco Open (good number of games and
decent competition), Sonoma (not enough games but great competition), and
Chattooga (lots of games and great competition).
Notice that the USCA nationals are not on the list. Last year's
nationals broke the trend. though, with lots of games and great competition. This
"president's cup" tournament would guarantee top competition and lots
of play, so it would be on my list of tournaments to go to.
I would like to propose an improvement to the selection process. The
selection committee should pick a captain for New Zealand in 2000 now.
The captain would be involved with the selection process. Each year the
captain and the selection committee could create some long weekend tournaments
where the team candidates could meet and compete. Because the weekends would
be set up by the selection committee, the tournament would be guaranteed
strong, as I described above. One of these tournaments could be longer and
called "The President's Cup".
In addition to using these tournaments to concentrate the best in the
US, the captain would be responsible for working with the candidates to improve
their games and their chance of being selected. The captain doesn't have to
be a playing captain.
I also think the selection committee did a poor job by not selecting
Michael Mehas. Mehas has won a lot of tournaments. He is obviously one of the
top six players in the US. The only reason I can see that he didn't get
picked is because some people don't like his behavior. I don't think the
selection committe should be worring about behavior. Several years ago I was
advised not to play with Mehas in doubles because he was "not the type of person
you want to be associated with." I made a mistake by taking that advice. I
should have decided for myself whether I liked him or not. I shouldn't
have worried what other people thought of me partnering with him. If the
other countries' players don't like him, that is their problem, not the
selection committee's. The USA team members would rather win, so if any member
didn't like him they would get over it. The sponsors would rather back the
best team possible, and without Mehas you don't have the best team possible.
--John Taves, US MacRobertson Team
WHAT ABOUT THE "CALZONA"?
The editors acknowedge that they forgot to add the "Calzona" - the
annual invitational team event between the best of the states of California and
Arizona - to the short list of International Rules tournaments drawing a
significant number of top players. In addition to the Calzona - which
may, indeed, be the strongest of all the tournaments when judged by the
average handicap of the American players participating - the list includes the
USCA International Rules National Championship, the U.S. Open (now sanctioned
by the USCA as well as the ACA), the Sonoma-Cutrer World Singles
Championships, and the Chattooga Challenge.
A BRITISH SELECTOR ON THE SELECTION PROCESS
Stephen Mulliner put the following on the Nottingham Board several
months ago, it was reprinted in THE AMATEUR, and we think it deserves repeating
yet again as the most compelling explication we've seen of the team
In real life, the actual selection decision is not the
function of a Selection Committee that really matters to the
interested public. The primary function is to make decisions which can
be criticised by others, and we (only a little wearily) fully
understand and accept this.
It is very difficult to make a selection that will earn anything like
universal support. There will always be another point of view.
Critical volume and critical quality are not quite the same thing.
One of the reasonable concerns of a Selection Committee is team
development. Up to 12 years ago, selectors were very conscious of the special stress
associated with international debuts. Players of undoubted talent
nonetheless found the experience of playing for their country for the
first time rather difficult and often played below their best. This in turn
meant that team development had to be approached slowly so that a core of at
least four experienced players was felt to be essential. This thought played
a part in the selection of the 1979 Great Britain Mac team that lost in
New Zealand which, admittedly with the benefit of hindsight, might have
done better if team development had been given greater emphasis. It is
certainly believed in New Zealand that the great stability of the New Zealand team
during the 1980s carried with it the seeds of future problems when those
players had passed their peaks.
Second, the situation is somewhat easier today because the Mac is only
one way in which our better players obtain international experience. The
WCC, Sonoma, the Solomon Trophy and, at a less exalted level, the Home
Internationals, the European CC and other continental events, are all
available. This means that, in October 1995, the Selection Committee
could have regard to over a dozen players with genuine international
experience. To this extent, team development can be afforded a somewhat higher
profile than hitherto, and one can now make a more reasonable argument for
bringing in three new Mac players at the same time.
Third, the overall standard of play is rather higher than before,
and courts, in general, seem to be a little easier. This leads me to
accept that single-ball skills, particularly shooting, have become
more rather than less important. Distinctly poor shooting is not
merely a problem for the player concerned but can also demoralise his or her
doubles partner and, worse still, encourage the opposition.
Another aspect of this facet of the decision is the balance between
match winners and match non-losers that should be in a side. If the team is
already well supplied with match non-losers, it is more reasonable to
include a more volatile performer.
Lastly, it is unreasonable either to ignore actual historical
achievement or to take too much notice of early season form.
--Stephen Mulliner, British Selector
BRIAN STOREY'S PERSONAL "CANNING" AWARDS
After Great Britain had actually won the MacRobertson Shield, I had the
dubious pleasure of being invited to the celebratory Chinese Meal at a
local Cheltenham restaurant. At this meal a traditional "canning" took place
in which players, officials, spectators and others were either heaped with
praise or given the bird for actions said or done, real or perceived,
true or untrue.
It was, for the most part, all done in the best possible taste. But it
got me thinking about producing, for those unfortunate enough to miss the
Mac, something on similar lines. With few exceptions the events listed below
were not considered by the restaurant "canning" committee. I am not
about to fall into the trap of producing something which could be considered
libel, so here is my own list with appropriate headings.
BEST SHOT OF THE TOURNAMENT
This one was voted the best shot at the "canning" despite most voters
never having seen it as this was done at Parkstone, the voters being mostly at
Bowdon. However, it has already reached the dizzy heights of folklore.
Colin Pickering (Australia) had contrived to have played all the balls
and still not got in front of his next hoop. Quite deliberately, and
probably in desperation - not that this would be discernable from the seemingly
unflappable Colin - he cannoned his own ball off one of the adjacent
balls to make it go through the hoop and continue his break.
WORST COMMERCIAL DECISION OF THE TOURNAMENT
The decision by the CA to overprice books and not provide a full range
of equipment for sale at the different venues.
BEST EDITED INTERNET REPORTS OF THE TOURNAMENT
No problem here. Effectively there were only two types of reports.
Mine and Bob Alman's [in CROQUET WORLD Online Magazine]. I defer to Bob's
magnificent effort, which together with the visual presentation gave a
good feeling all round.
BEST DRESSED TEAM
A tie here. It is impossible to choose between Australia and New
Zealand. Their track suits were in their own national colours and really set
the scene. No disrespect to GB and the USA, but the others took my eye.
MOST PROFESSIONAL TEAM ATTITUDE
No problem here. Australia win hands down. With a "no protein eating"
order at lunch time, home cooked food wherever possible, and the unusual sight
of croquet players warming up with calisthenics each morning, there was
much evidence here of serious intent.
BEST WET GEAR
Most of the time the weather was kind, but on a couple of days we got
the bad stuff too. This did not affect Colin Pickering, who wins his second
award. His almost all-black attire including "THE" hat, he cut a fine figure
of sartorial elegance, even though it was a dripping one.
WORST CROQUET ASSOCIATION DECISION OF THE TOURNAMENT
The Macrobertson Shield is the biggest croquet tournament in the world,
bringing all the best players together once every four years. It was a
surprise therefore that in this year, the CA Council members did not
want to sit on a publicity committee to project not only the tournament but also
the game itself. No council members, no publicity committee - no publicity
committee, no publicity - no publicity, no public - no public, no
future players - no future players, no game - no game, no CA - no CA - no
HOW TO SHOOT YOURSELF IN THE FOOT 20,000 TIMES
At the Mac the opportunity was taken for the members to determine how
the tournament should be organised in the future. Much has been written
about possible future events, perhaps allowing other countries to enter or
some form of promotion and relegation. This was all discussed. I wasn't at
the meeting, but my informant tells me that the Mac teams agreed
to have the next one in the year 2000, January in New Zealand. No
contention there. But wait for it! They also accepted the principle of promotion
and relegation, to take effect from that tournament. No contention there.
Still wait for it! To determine the relegated team it was also accepted in
principle that the bottom team in New Zealand would be challenged by
another team by: a team of six players, playing in the country of the challenged
team with the understanding that on the rota system they may have to host the
next event. No contention there!
Now we get to the good bit. How is the challenger to be determined? It
is suggested that the WCF should be asked to hold a team tournament, the
winner becoming challengers. Seems reasonable. (Though I think the relative
strengths of teams of four as opposed to six may prove the underlying
weakness of some teams. Anyway, enough of that, back to the tale).
To sort of legitimise its stature within the WCF croquet playing world,
the Mac teams suggested that the WCF recognise the Mac as the World Team
Championship, which of course it is already. The response? A mind
blowing comment that this would cost the teams something in the order of L20,000
for a licence fee. Yes, that's 20 thousand pounds. Wow! I am reminded now
of one comment to me by the late Robert Pritchard. "The trouble with
croquet is, that it's played by people who cannot afford it". At this price,
can anyone? Talk about re-cycling money!
Needless to say, this was one lead balloon and only widened the gap
between the croquet playing world and the WCF administration. For me, the Mac
teams should call it the World Team Championship anyway. (There's me getting
all political again).
BEST PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE TOURNAMENT
This goes easily to Jerry Stark and the USA team. Nothing was too much
trouble for them despite the difficulties they had on the lawn.
Memorably Jerry Stark ensured that all the team signed the programme for a number
of young girls who had come to watch the GB test with their teacher. Excellent.!
WORST PUBLIC RELATIONS OF THE TOURNAMENT AND ONE SHOT IN THE FOOT
A player who could have tried didn't by being horrible to a 14-year-old
girl who asked for his autograph in her programme, which was refused.
MOST CLUMSY REPORTER OF THE TOURNAMENT
Me. For almost three weeks, I and the USA team had shared telephone
lines for the downloading of files to the Internet and also photos by them to
the USCA Web page. On the penultimate day I caught my foot in the
electrical lead, pulling the laptop of John Taves onto the floor and breaking the
MOST FORGIVING PLAYER OF THE TOURNAMENT
John Taves, for allowing me the chance to die a natural death by
MOST GLARING RESULT ERROR
Me, posting a loss on the master scoreboard for Clarke and Fulford,
despite their having won and secured the Mac for GB. Well, it was busy, you
BIGGEST TIME LAG OF THE TOURNAMENT
At the WCF world championship in France in June 1995, the decision was
made by the management committee to appoint a working party on the laws of
the game. Apparently they would then report back on any suggested changes
and they would then be discussed. Interestingly, the actual appointment was
never done. Partly no doubt due to the fact that the WCF has no actual
control of the laws as they are still within the remit of the laws
committees of GB, Australia and New Zealand (and I would doubt they would be
willing to give up that right without something in return). So a year later the
WCF actually got to progress their decision. It will be interesting to
watch developments on this and how a power struggle will be resolved.
MOST INTERESTING REFEREEING DECISION OF THE TOURNAMENT
The Mac presents the opportunity to get together all those concerned
with such matters as laws of the game. So having been appointed to look at
the laws, the group had a go. For some time in the Southern Hemisphere
there has been concern about balls disturbed by the multi-swinging variety of
player. You know the problem.
Multi-swinging is somewhat more difficult to determine when they start
to swing the mallet "with intent to hit the Ball". I am reliably informed
that the concensus of this meeting is that disturbance of any ball
other than the player's ball will constitute a fault. Am I alone in
thinking that this seems strange. Why make an exception for the player's ball?
Should it be the other way round, if there is to be a discrimination at
all? Or, should it be all balls or none at all. No doubt we will be told
BEST EXAMPLE OF BRINGING PRESSURE TO BEAR
IN THE TOURNAMENT BUT NO SHOT IN THE FOOT
The USA team, almost to a man, were or are in the habit of roqueting a
ball, walking up to it and placing a foot onto it - presumably to steady it
for the croquet shot. The practice was repeated after each roquet with some
players. Perhaps this is as a result of the cultural divide over the
Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Although this was noticed early on, it was
not until half-way through the last test that an official complaint was made
by the Australians. The officials, reasonably in my opinion, having
regard to the fact that the USA players had done this all the way
through, decided a team concensus view would iron out this potential for World
War III. The decision was to allow it to continue until the end of the
test. Very pragmatic.
BEST COMMUNAL SINGING OF THE TOURNAMENT
The USA team singing their National Anthem after a little bit of
persuasion from others on their Independence Day.
There, that's my attempt. I await others to agree, disagree, award
their own awards etc. But it was damn good fun being at the event. Thanks to
one and all who helped in everything and wrote nice E-Mail. Thanks to me
for the Results Page.
--Brian Storey, abridged slightly from the Nottingham Board
CROQUET WORLD thanks Brian for the "award" and wishes to return the
compliment. Brian's daily, detailed reports made the event come alive
for thousands of croquet fans around the world. We're looking forward to a
reprise of our partnership to cover MacRob 2000.
"POP" (PEEL ON OPPONENT) TACTICS EXPLAINED BY HILDITCH
I just wanted to make a few comments on your reference to POP tactics in
your "Vision for 2000" article.
Wylie's original book talks about POP tactics to prevent ordinary
triples. Against weak players or on a poor lawn this may make sense, but
I think that Robert Fulford is now using POP tactics more for the leave
than for delaying triples.
With the 'standard' diagonal spread leave the opponent can shoot down
the east boundary into corner 4. This makes an ordinary triple already very
difficult (it requires a couple of precision rushes either before or
after 1 or after 2). This is one attraction of the NSL (the "New Standard
Leave") used heavily by the New Zealand and Australian players during
In the British Opens final against Aaron Westerby, Fulford instead
popped his opponent to 1 and 3 and got a defensive leave to try and prevent a
break and at least prevent the TPO. The point is that in easy conditions
against a strong opponent the delayed triple is inevitable and so there is no
point preventing the standard triple.
I would not encourage POPing for the sake of it; it is critical that the
player understands the game very closely. Robert Fulford (who is
going to be in Chattooga over the summer) could provide more details.
--Richard Hilditch, MacRob '96 manager