CROQUET 2016 / 2017
2015 / 2016
Officer: Captain Alexander Bishop
2014 / 2015
Officer: Captain Alexander Bishop
This year twenty Queen’s teams entered croquet Cuppers, which was once again Oxford’s largest inter-collegiate sporting event. Two teams, captained by Philippa McCue and Charles Hicks, reached round five, quite an achievement considering the high standard of play this year. Highlights from the rest of the tournament included a resounding 26-0 victory over a team from Magdalen.
Over at the University lawns, Bishop has been representing the University with resounding victories over the High Wycombe and Blewbury Croquet Clubs. He also represented the College in the blues squad for croquet, playing at the annual Varsity match at the Hurlingham Club in London at the end of Trinity Term in which Oxford beat Cambridge for the eleventh consecutive year.
2013 / 2014
Officer: Captain Fred Woodcock
This summer was the sunniest Trinity Term in recent memory, and croquet players old and new streamed onto Front Quad to make the most of the good weather. Although the standard of play (and even the rulebook) varied widely, it was good to see that the enthusiasm and enjoyment of the players did not.
Croquet Cuppers is a huge knockout tournament. With over 500 teams of four players entering, it has become a ‘Quintessential Oxford Experience’ and is not to be missed. The Queen’s contingent initially contained an impressive nineteen teams, but was whittled down by approximately half in each round until only two teams were left in the fourth, a team of freshers led by Charles Hicks, and the College first-team, seasoned fourth-years hoping to seize their final chance of glory.
Helped by the impressive accuracy of Yuhao Zhang and the tactical flair of Denis Kent, the first team survived a tight match against Harris Manchester to advance to the next round, while the freshers saw off the challenge of Lady Margaret Hall. In round five, poor play from the first-team captain was to blame for a disappointing loss at St Hilda’s, where it was realised that tactics appropriate for the Varsity match might not be suitable on a lawn too long to cross with a single hit. Despite the resilience of Thomas Watts earning a win in the home leg, the match was lost on aggregate and the Cuppers dream was shattered all too early. Meanwhile the freshers came unstuck against a strong St Hugh’s team, leaving no one to represent the College at the business end of the tournament.
Although the results have been disappointing this year, croquet in Queen’s has a bright future. The younger teams will surely return to Cuppers stronger than before, and it is to be hoped that next year will see many new players introduced to this fascinating and entertaining sport. The captain is grateful for every game he has had at Queen’s, and wishes enjoyment and success to all future players.
2012 / 2013
Officers: Captain Tom Sneddon
2011 / 2012
Officers: Captain Luke Sewell
This summer, after years of under-achievement, Queen’s College Croquet Club finally saw the success that will hopefully cement the sport in its rightful position as one of the College’s premier sports. The new captain, taking over from Patrick Wills, and interim captain Thomas Sneddon, whose lack of presence on the lawn was badly missed, discovered that last year’s investment on mallets had proved, as feared, too small a sum for such a popular sport. Hopefully, a new and more durable set might be obtained by next year’s captain, the returning Mr Sneddon.
The season itself had two main highlights for the Creams; an impressive Cuppers run by the 1st team, and the emergence of a strong core of second years honing their skills, both of which should inspire many a generation of Queensmen to come.
The 1st team, consisting of Luke Sewell, Matthew Green, Frederick F.J. Johnson and the mercurial Alexander McDonald, reached the quarter finals of Cuppers, with some magnificent victories against teams from St Hilda’s, Christ Church, Worcester, Trinity and Somerville along the way. Eventually, however, the run was curtailed by a team from Mansfield, whose place in the competition at that stage might have been deemed undeserved to an impartial and informed observer. With grass length and court size playing into their hands, Queen’s poetic roll shots and artistic rushes proved futile against the brute force of the adversary.
A similar fate was suffered by the second string, a team of promising second years who will certainly have much success next year if they continue in their progress. Rather than the length of the grass, Fred Woodcock and company found the gradient of the St Benet’s lawns a true leveller. Their unquestionable aptitude and commitment to the game will enable them to meet such challenges next year.
Away from the serious competition, the popularity of the sport showed no signs of waning, with laymen and old hands alike taking to the beautifully conditioned front quad lawn at every opportunity. Those Creams going down this year can be proud that they are leaving the Club in a prosperous and flourishing state.
2010 / 2011
Officers: Captain Patrick Wills
Croquet remains the most enjoyed and, some would say, intellectually demanding of the summer sports within Queen’s College. This year, as any other, saw friendships forged and destroyed, bitter rivalries fought out, and a great many triumphant cries of victory and crushed whimpers of defeat heard across the hazy croquet hoops of Front Quad. Returning from his year abroad, the captain found the game to be in excellent shape. Although many of the great Creams of previous years had left Oxford, new talent had risen in their places, and special mentions must go to Messrs Matt Green, Luke Sewell and Tom Sneddon for consistent displays of particular talent throughout the season.
Unfortunately, while the game was in good spirits, the croquet equipment of the JCR was not. Thus, once again, the crude concept of JCR democracy was elegantly brushed aside and, combined with funds allocated by the Amalgamated Sports Clubs Committee (in recognition, no doubt, of the ever-increasing importance of high-level croquet to college life and well-being), the captain was allowed to purchase for the College four brand new mallets, complete with regulation octagonal heads and carbon fibre shafts. At the same time, the rules of croquet in Front Quad were relaxed to allow two games to run simultaneously on the lawn, thus doubling the amount of croquet that could be played and reducing the usual pitch size to something rather closer to the regulation croquet lawn. There can be no doubt that the croqueting excellence afforded by these new mallets stunned one and all. Shots previously thought impossible by even such croqueting greats as Messrs Ben Cahill or Simon Dewsbury were made with sophisticated ease, 8-hoop turns became commonplace, and regular audiences applauded the many shots of remarkable skill. Tactically, the meta-game has continued to evolve, with Mr Sewell’s altogether different brain taking him off on wild tangents which, rather annoyingly, often prove successful.
In Cuppers the most success was found by the team of aforementioned second years: Messrs Green, Sewell and Sneddon were joined by Mr Fred Garrett as college croquet teams far and wide shuddered to hear of their excellence and questionable chat. Unfortunately, as with all good Cuppers runs, their vain dreams of glory were dashed by a team containing one of the university blues players, notable for their consistent melancholy, silence and boater-related fashion choices.
Thus croquet remains one of the central elements in the lives of many undergraduates, though the old elite and male-dominated tendencies have begun to wane and it is not uncommon to see a member of the fairer sex take boldly to the lawns. Queen’s Front Quad remains a hallowed bastion of croqueting excellence, one which continues to allow players from a diverse range of backgrounds to flourish at the sport (weather and authorities permitting, of course).
2009 / 2010
Captain: Ben Cahill
The captaincy of the Queen’s Creams returned to Ben Cahill after a gap of one year, who became the first captain in living memory to serve two non-consecutive terms of office. A palpable sense of fin de siècle pervaded the front quadrangle as many Creams had been forced to retire from the world of competitive garden sports to pursue careers in non-croquet related fields, and, of the big names who remained, many were required to spend large portions of the croquet day within the confines of the library as they prepared for their non-croquet based examinations at the end of the term. The Creams did, however, put in the hours when and where they could and Trinity Term 2010 will be remembered as a coming of age year for many of the finest players the College has ever seen. Returning from his intense twelve-month training camp on the Continent, Mr Cahill was able comfortably to slide back into a position at the top of the lawn pecking order, stunning all by winning his first game in only six and a half regulation shots. Mr Kelly was able to retain his university record for the most mallet rush points on a back leg scored in the Cuppers competition for the third consecutive season, whilst also holding down a spot on the Blues football team. Overall performance in the competition was hampered by the fact that an active interest in degree results led many to sacrifice the greens and team outings were also a rarity. Academia threatened to crush the Club and the memory of everything it has stood for, but the Club responded, blazer usage increasing 18% in real terms compared with last season. It can only be hoped that the next generation of croquet players will continue the legacy left by those leaving the College and that some in the lower years of the College were paying attention, learning the rules and codes of conduct, and waiting to step out of the shadows.
2008 / 2009
Captain: Patrick Wills
This has been a highly emotional season for the croquet club, sometimes known within the College as the “Creams”. The two lawns of the Front Quad, where most of the croquet has been played, have seen matches charged with pride and passion. The season began in an unfortunate manner, a rule being introduced banning the use of two lawns simultaneously, thereby disappointing fifty per cent of the club. In a single stroke last year’s efforts of former captain Ben Cahill and former Taberdars’ Room President, Jonny Medland in persuading the Garden Master to allow croquet to be played simultaneously on the two lawns and arranging for a new croquet set, complete with brass-capped mallets to be purchased with Taberdars’ Room funds, were nullified. However, for some inexplicable reason, after a short space of time the decision was reversed and simultaneous play on both lawns was allowed.
As last season was the season of “Angles” this season has been christened the season of “Rush” by James Kelly, a leading and, possibly, the finest member of the Creams. This moniker stems from two main causes, the first being Kelly’s dedication to the game and all of its important elements, and the second being a deep void in his life when not on the cricket field in the football off season which leads to his being found day in and day out, punishing the less accomplished members of the College on the croquet lawn. As a consequence, a deviant form of croquet involving the moving of hoops during the game, and the abandoning of the game before its proper conclusion, has arisen in an effort to expose the less competitive side of his nature, but his dour Yorkshire disposition remained consistently unamused.
The Cuppers competition saw two teams formed, one led by Mr Boyes, and consisting of Messrs Thompson, Kelly, and newcomer Clube, and the other led by Mr Wills, and consisting of stalwarts Messrs Lewin, Bosworth, and Strachan. After good runs, both teams were unfortunately eliminated in the fourth round. On the social scene the Creams continued the success enjoyed by their predecessors and the Club can look forward to similar success in subsequent seasons.
2007 / 2008 – CROQUET REPORT
Captain: Benjamin Cahill
This season has seen a growth in the popularity of croquet at Queen’s and it was the good fortune of this year’s captain to inherit a well-organised system from last year’s captain, the elusive Dewsbury. The club is now built on a solid base which hopefully will set Queen’s on the path to future glory and university-wide recognition. Rarely has the lawn been empty this Trinity Term and competition for the set was great as the players poured out of lunch or dinner ready to hone their skills in the gentle sunshine. Such was the rise in numbers of practising croquet players that JCR President Jonathan Medland defined his presidency by acquiring for the JCR a second croquet set, in one swift and decisive moment of characteristic prudence doubling the number of croquet hours in a day.
Social croquet, therefore, became a favourite pastime of many Queen’s students, whether playing or watching, often completely regardless of any match experience or a working knowledge of the rules. Mr Simon Dewsbury handed out lessons in proper play when not struggling with the inexorable onslaught of debilitating injuries that have all too often rendered his participation in a number of college-level sports occasional. The game of choice on the lawns more often than not was doubles, and the perfect foil to Dewsbury’s devastating combination of almost flawless shot-making and a tactical awareness that nearly always took into account his next shot, was of course another fourth-year stalwart, Mr Richard Lewin, whose boyish charms and ‘never-say-die’ attitude rightly earned him renown as a ‘tryer’. Despite Lewin’s slightly unorthodox style, his series of non-regulation hair cuts, and his ability to look lost even on the smallest of lawns, he and Dewsbury look set to go down in the history books as one of the most feared teams Queen’s has ever seen. Few were the players who could confidently accept their challenge.
Cuppers, however, exposed Queen’s relative lack of experience and big game players. After two teams had crashed out by the end of the second round, the hopes and dreams of the College rode on the broad, muscular shoulders of Mr Jim Fouracre and his team of all-stars, Messrs Lowe, Elias and Barclay, croquet titans among men. They eased past a below average Harris Manchester side and then secured comfortable victories over teams from LMH and St Catherine’s, with Fouracre and Lowe consistently pulling out superb performances and Elias and Barclay backing up the other vital aspect of the game with their college-wide recognised chat reducing grown men to tears. In the fourth round they would come up against LMH’s first team. Reports regarding this match are sketchy since all four gentlemen took an honourable vow of silence in the aftermath, but it has been gathered that a 65-year old undergraduate with his own carbon fibre mallet and three other equally strange players who referred to balls as ‘pioneers’ and made horrendous croquet-based jokes took advantage of adverse weather conditions and the unsettling effect of the loss of Jim’s lucky yellow wishing troll to win the game. Nevertheless, Queen’s firsts had done the College proud. Mr Fouracre had been able to steer a solid course as captain and hold together a very wide range of personalities in his team and Mr Lowe scored more croquet mallet hoops that anyone else in the competition. In team outings, Queen’s was comfortably able to beat Jesus College netball team through a combination of greater commitment to the rigours of the professional game displayed by newcomers such as Mr Boyes and much higher stamina from all. In the end the gentlemen in cream blazers just wanted it more. The ladies of OUAC were able to take their game much closer, but they too ultimately fell to the very strong, well-dressed team that Queen’s consistently managed to field. Special thanks must be directed towards Blues’ footballer James Kelly for taking time out of his incredibly busy schedule to lend his hand to the team, discovering that his football skill was easily transferrable to the croquet lawn.
Croquet remains a male and upper class dominated sport. Establishment opinion obviously is as reactionary as ever and the croquet overlords look unlikely ever to accept growing evidence that times are changing and that the average player no longer votes Whig. However, the Queen’s captain humbly applauds the democratisation of croquet of which Queen’s front quadrangle during term time, between one pm and six pm and then again between seven and nine pm, weather and authorities permitting, has become a bastion, a safe haven which has allowed players from a diverse range of backgrounds to flourish this season.
2004 – 2005
Captain: Sophie Slowe
What could be more ‘Oxford’ than a summer afternoon of sunshine, Pimms and a game of croquet in front quad? Croquet is one of those quintessentially English sports and moreover, playing a game of it is the only valid excuse for being allowed to walk on the hallowed grass of front quad.
For those of you that fancy your chances as a bit of a Brideshead Revisited style croquet pro you can enter ‘Cuppers’. This is a knockout competition between different college teams during Trinity Term and is a great opportunity to see and play against some of the best players in the country (I think the UK’s number 17 player is at Merton College), as well as the perfect excuse to chill out and drink Pimms on a sunshiny summer day when you should be revising. Last season Queen’s entered a massive total of nine teams (with four players each) and all years, from the Freshers though to the Finalists, taking part. All nine teams qualified successfully and continued through to round 2 of the competition where unfortunately some highly skilled, and possibly slightly more sober, opposition got the better of them. One team however, having beaten our old rivals from across the lane, Teddy Hall, (in front of a crowd of beaming Queen’s members who watched the massacre as it unfolded in front quad), made it right through to the final 16. However, despite an epic battle of skill and will, (where polite croquet etiquette even slipped at occasional brief moments), they too were finally knocked out by the Mansfield 1st team. Next year however we will have revenge and are determined to improve even further on this season’s fine achievements.
Unfortunately, playing in college is restricted to the Trinity Term between 1pm and 5pm and then again between 7pm and 9pm. However, anyone at Queen’s can play simply by getting the key to the college croquet box from the porter’s lodge, which contains all the paraphernalia that you need: mallets, hoops, balls, clips and a peg (but sadly not the Pimms). Even if you have never played before and have no intention of playing regularly or seriously, croquet is one of those things (like punting and picnicking) that you should try at least once when coming to Oxford University.
2003 – 2004
Captain: John Barwise
It was once again the arrival of enthusiastic freshers that made croquet Cuppers so popular amongst Queen’s students this Trinity Term. A total of thirteen teams entered Cuppers with six of these being accepted into the competition. Four out of the six teams made it through the first round, an improvement on the four out of eight that made it last year. Queen’s V were unfortunate to be drawn against the relatively experienced Lincoln VI team, and Queen’s VI were unable to arrange a match, resulting in Mansfield I claiming the win against them. Queen’s I managed a most impressive victory by beating St Hilda’s I by 54 points to 11. The second round also produced some unexpected events. Queen’s I managed a bye as a convenient time could not be found for their match against Greyfriars I, resulting in Greyfriars conceding to what they thought would probably be the better team, and Queen’s IV won their match by a coin toss. Together with two good wins by Queen’s II and Queen’s III, this put all four remaining teams into the third round. It was this third round, however, that proved to be the undoing of most of the teams with only the first team making it through to the fourth round.
The fourth round brought Queen’s I up against a very experienced New I team and a difficult match was sure to be on the cards. Rory Clark and Mark Rogers valiantly stepped up to the task of playing the first (home) leg on Front Quad. The home advantage worked well for the first hour and a half, the inability of the Front Quad lawn to carry a ball in anything even closely resembling a straight line confusing the New College team. Once it had learned to compensate, the New College team produced a seven and four hoop break in two successive turns resulting in an eleven-point lead going into the second leg. With the New College lawn unexpectedly out of action just before the second leg was due to start, play was moved to the Queen’s sports ground. Possibly assisted by the consumption of Pimms, Barwise and Shimell put together several two and three hoop breaks, and the team went on to win by eight points, a margin insufficient to make up the first leg deficit.
The club is grateful to this year’s first team members, Rory Clarke, Mark Rogers, Richard Shimell and Chris Brown, and a special mention must also go to this year’s second team, Stefan Sadnicki, Pete Baker, Paul Lawson and James Nelson, for their dedication to the sport over the last two years. The club’s best wishes go to Sophie Slowe who will be next year’s captain.
2002 – 2003
Captain: John Barwise
This year the thirst for croquet seemed to grip most members of Queen’s as it never had before. It would be pleasing to report that this owed much to the captain’s inspired leadership. However, the more likely causes were the good weather and a particularly enthusiastic first year intake. The demand for social games in Front Quad almost surpassed what could realistically be met, as a number of freshers joined in to play the more experienced members of the College. This led to what must be a record number of entries in Cuppers. Ten teams entered initially, but unfortunately only eight were accepted, even though the number of available positions in the tournament was doubled to 128 this year. Queen’s made a great start, with four teams making it through to the second round and three of those hanging on to the fourth. Unfortunately, Trinity I, Hertford V and Harris Manchester I proved too much for Queen’s I, II and III respectively, and the Queen’s run of fortune came to an end.
2001 – 2002
Captain Neil Cunningham
This season has been particularly pleasing. Not only did the Club acquire a much needed new set of mallets, but also, considering the distinct lack of pre-season training, the entry of two teams in cuppers proved more successful than anyone could have imagined. The opening weeks of the season brought sadness with the breakage of three mallets, the departure of which was felt throughout the College. However, the Club was able to recover from this loss and begin training for what would prove to be one of the most testing cuppers campaigns in living memory. The first four, strengthened this year by the dogged E.P. Simmons, began by easily dispatching a plucky Brasenose team. Unfortunately, further progress was brutally halted by looming Finals, and the first four was forced to bow out gracefully. The second four on the other hand was able to battle their way to the last sixteen, where they were felled, not by their lack of talent, but by gamesmanship that is certainly frowned upon inside the walls of Queen’s. As ever, the Queen’s College Croquet Club season has been a veritable roller-coaster ride and all that have been lucky enough to find themselves involved have become better people for it.