Croquet New Zealand puts on a new face, dons colorful attire, and courts youth
A new image is required in New Zealand to halt the membership slide of the past few years. The New Zealand Croquet Council (or "Croquet New Zealand" as the national body is now called, if only unofficially) have acted decisively in several areas. The name change brings croquet into line with many other New Zealand sporting codes. The change is unofficial to save the costly and time-consuming legal problems that dogged Croquet Australia when they went through the same exercise several years ago.
A new logo, new letterhead and updated business cards are to follow, all in a modern, up-to-date style. No mallets or balls to be found here - that's "old-fashioned". The one concession is the Silver Fern - New Zealand's national emblem - which finds itself wrapped around the word "croquet" in the new logo.
The new Kiwi fashion: "Clothing of a reasonable standard"
Perhaps the most far reaching of all Croquet New Zealand's image-enhancing moves was the relaxation of the clothing rules. Ironically, it was New Zealand that inspired the wearing of whites worldwide as, according to John Solomon's inaugural Solomon lecture, whites were brought to England from NZ following the 1950 test match tour. CRNZ are committed to attracting young people to the sport, and young people generally hate to conform by wearing white uniform. What better way of letting them express their individuality than by allowing them to wear their own choice of clothes at tournaments?
The rule change is simple. The former "Clothing worn on the lawns should be predominantly white or cream" merely changes to "Clothing worn on the lawns should be of a reasonable standard". What will be interpreted as "reasonable" is eagerly awaited!
Goodbye, Jaques - Hello, Barlow
The traditional Jaques ball used for generations is out. Partly by default, partly to embrace the new image, the complex composition of the Jaques Eclipse is to be replaced by solid plastic. Jaques have yet to come up with a satisfactory alternative to their now discontinued standard Eclipse ball. Until developments produce a satisfactory ball, CRNZ have opted to change to the South African "Barlow GT" solid plastic ball.
The Barlow GT has been tested recently and has been found to play well without suffering the changes in playing characteristics due to extremes of heat that other plastic balls are prone to. CRNZ's major tournaments over the next two years will be played with the GT's - including the Trans Tasman Test in 1999 and the McRobertson 2000 World Croquet Series (both to be held in New Zealand). After that, the situation will be reviewed in the light of developments from Jaques and other manufacturers.
Other image enhancers include a commitment to the national "Kiwi Sport" programme. The plan is to use the national program to teach a modified form of the game to youngsters at their schools.
Finally, Croquet New Zealand will get "hooked up" to E-mail and the Internet. They expect to have their own website up and running within six months.
[Steve Jones, one of New Zealand's most successful competitors in the sport, is also the author of the book "Peel Appeal," which recounts his experiences and observations in major tournaments with top-level players.]
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