If I mentioned croquet to you it’s likely that you would imagine the sport of the rich, the slightly greyer haired, and the spiritual home of Pimms and triangular sandwiches. However, you would be mistaken.
The world of Golf Croquet is cosmopolitan, global, and growing, and Edinburgh University is home to one of the world’s up-and-coming Golf Croquet players, fourth year Civil Engineering student JP Moberly who, at 22, is the world number nine in his sport.
“Although there’s a lot of imagery of cucumber sandwiches in country estates it’s actually pretty ferocious; there can be some cussing under the breath!” said Moberly, when I met him in Teviot before he flew out to Australia for the 2017 World Championships which started on 25 February.
Moberly is your typical student, originally from Durham, and doesn’t come close to into any pre-conceived stereotype of the sport he plays.
He started playing only six years ago when, at a family dinner, his godparents brought out a croquet kit instead of the traditional Easter Sunday walk. An afternoon of croquet and a Google search for his local club later and Moberly was hooked.
“The feeling when you get a hoop when you’re aiming for it, that’s a great feeling, and also when someone is right in front and you knock them out and they’re hating you for the next few minutes, that’s also a great feeling.
“It was a bit of a long shot but it turned out that Croquet Durham Club was formed three or four years before that and it was a 10-minute walk away from my house, so I went the next day and have been playing ever since.”
“Usually the first reaction I get when I tell people I play croquet is people laughing in my face, but once I start talking about it they think ‘oh that’s pretty cool’; they have no idea that there are opportunities to go play croquet on the other side of the world. To be honest I didn’t know that either.”
Moberly plays Golf Croquet rather than the more traditional version of the sport, Association Croquet; the difference between the two he likens to test and T20 cricket.
“In Association Croquet you have to get both of your balls through all of the hoops before your opponent does where you almost build a break. Whereas Golf Croquet you just have to get a certain number of hoops before your opponent does on alternating strokes. It’s a bit like comparing pool to snooker, or T20 cricket to a test match.”
This is not the first time Moberly has gone to a World Championships: in 2015 he was awarded a wildcard to play in the competition in New Zealand. He narrowly missed out on progressing past the first ‘block stage’ round, finishing fifth, where the top four of eight blocks of 10 progress to a straight knock-out competition. This time around though he is the seventh seed, off the back of a very successful 2016 season that saw him rise to inside the top 10, he is quietly confident.
“I’m feeling fairly confident, officially there are only six people more likely to win so I feel like I’ve got a chance. My first aim is to get out of the block stage,” he said.
“It is very much a confidence game, and I know it is very competitive. I know that if I play well and if I’m in the top 10 I know there are going to be a lot of other good players up there as well.”
“If I take the first few days, get a few wins, get into my stride, then yeah, I’m confident of progressing but I don’t want to shout it from the rooftops, keep it on the down-low!”
For the full interview with JP Moberly, please check out the link from FreshAir Sport here: https://www.freshair.org.uk/teams/sport/posts/2123-freshair-sport-show-11-22022017
Image courtesy of Lily Duggan