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STEVE JONES,
NEW ZEALAND CORRESPONDENT


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"Changing croquet tactics and changing social attitudes are responsible for the decline in top women players."

New Zealand, like most other countries, suffers from a deficit of women who can be counted as "top players". Why is this? Unlike most other sports, Croquet has evolved in an atmosphere where men and women compete on an equal footing, so the numbers of top men and women players should be more even, especially considering that 66% of current New Zealand players are women.

Of the current membership of approximately 4500, there is only one woman who can compete consistently at the top level - Madeleine Hadwin. Her handicap is -2.5 (the minimum is -4 in New Zealand). She hasn't been playing a lot in the last year or two, but she is set to make a comeback this season. Four women sport a handicap of -.5 [minus a half], about 10 more are on scratch and all the rest - the vast majority - have positive handicaps.

This sorry state of affairs has persisted for more than 25 years. Before that, women players were much more prominent although generally not completely dominant. The last woman to win the New Zealand Open was Jean Jarden in 1966 (What a player she was!) and in 1969 there were three women in the MacRobertson Shield team. Since then, the Croquet fortunes of women have slowly declined, with only Susan Wiggins and Madeleine causing serious problems for the men in the intervening years.


"Ironically, the current president is a woman, but other than her there are no women on the national executive, and they have been in a minority in this body for many years.

One theory is that the decline in women administrators has lead to a corresponding decline in women's playing standards. Certainly there have been many women in administrative positions in times gone by, there having been women NZCC presidents continuously from 1957 to 1984. Ironically, the present president is a woman, but other than her there are no women on the national executive and they have been in a minority on this body for many years. It is possible that the lack of women in administrative positions has lead to a reduction in the confidence of women players.

Another theory is that women are put off and have lost confidence because they are continually put down by the men. There may be some truth in this.


"In New Zealand, a big effort is going into coaching women...and everyone is keen to see the reemergence of women in international teams."

It is more likely, however, (I believe) that changing Croquet tactics and changing social attitudes are responsible for the decline in good women players. As a man, I find it difficult to discuss these issues without seeming to be sexist and bigoted .... but here goes! Croquet tactics have changed over the years: more peeling is done now and leaves have got more complex. Many men love this sort of thing and thrive on the subtleties and intricacies involved. Some women have a problem in this area and while they can undoubtedly "multi-task" better than most men, they perhaps have more difficulty in focusing in on one particular topic.

What I mean by social attitudes is that in former times, women players were middle aged, "upper-middle class" people and as such could afford (time and money) to play croquet. They probably had more time to spare for croquet than the menfolk who had to work hard to establish themselves an income (especially in the pioneering days in New Zealand). Nowadays, however, Croquet is for all "classes", and women players (the better ones, anyway) seem to be younger and busier, with their own careers to follow. Men are still on their own career paths, of course, but there is now much more emphasis on leisure activities.

I will probably get shot for the last two paragraphs but I cannot think of any other reasons why women players shouldn't be better. In New Zealand, a big effort is currently going into coaching women (from both men and women) and everyone is keen to see the re-emergence of women in international teams.

--Steve Jones

[Steve Jones is a top player, CROQUET WORLD correspondent and author of the NEW ZEALAND REPORT, which frequently appears on this Web site.]

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