By Mick Jensen
Mount Hutt College is the strongest croquet school in New Zealand and hopes are high for five of its players at the U21 World Golf Croquet Championships which start in Melbourne at the weekend.
The 470-pupil school holds the New Zealand secondary schools title, which it will defend in September, and has ambitious plans to grow the game further.
Success for students in Melbourne would support the claim that it was not only the strongest croquet-playing school in the country, but “well on track to being the strongest in the world”, said principal John Schreurs.
Mr Schreurs said that although croquet was not a mainstream sport, it still required top players to be skilful, mentally strong and competitive.
He said the five pupils flying the flag for the school and the country were a credit to Mount Hutt.
Credit for the popularity of the game at Mount Hutt should go to pupil and top New Zealand player Edmund Fordyce, who had shown his schoolmates the way forward with his performances and had encouraged them to give it a go, Mr Schreurs said.
Fordyce will be joined by Kaleb Small, Caitlin Smith, Jakob Smith and Christopher Spitall for the trip to Melbourne.
The quintet have played in national tournaments over the last few months, including the U21 New Zealand Championships, New Zealand Golf Croquet Championships and the New Zealand Open.
Edmund Fordyce has been the standout performer, finishing second in the singles and fourth in the doubles with Kaleb Smith at the U21 event.
He (Fordyce) then went on become New Zealand’s youngest ever national champion at the Golf Croquet Championships and a week later claimed the doubles title at the NZ Open.
The Mount Hutt College players are helped by the fact that they can call on the advice and knowledge of Jarrod Coutts, a new teacher at the school and a New Zealand Croquet team manager.
Mr Coutts said Mount Hutt College had 15 active players, but he expected that number to at least double by the end of the year.
His aim was to have 10 per cent of the school roll involved in playing the game.
“If we continue our development, we can treble the numbers attending big competitions in two years’ time, which would be an impressive achievement for the school,” Mr Coutts said.
He said Mount Hutt players were well supported by the school and by the Methven and Waireka croquet clubs.
“Success breeds competition and that’s what we hope to see going forward. While Edmund Fordyce is still a notch above players at Mount Hutt, that gap has been closing significantly over the last few months.”
Players had been highly motivated since learning of their selection for Melbourne and he expected some good results. Twenty eight players from countries that include the USA, Australia, Egypt and New Zealand will contest the event.