Not Deterred By a Virus

Despite the restrictions on playing any non- contact sport or sport of any kind because of the corona virus, two of the most experienced and enthusiastic players have managed to play their favourite game. From McIlwraith Club, these pioneers in Gateball – Beryl and John Holmes- are using their back garden as their Gateball Court. Seen here in the photo, they are having a wonderful time. In July they will celebrate their 90th birthday on different days in the month. Thanks to Frances Wregg for supplying us with the story and the photo.

Beryl wrote the following report back in 2015 and I am publicising it again.


In 2002 the membership of McIlwraith CC was still hovering around 22-23 people. Many other sports clubs in the area were closing. Vines covered almost all the boundary fences, reaching 8 to 10 metres along Auchenflower Terrace – covering the trees to their tops. The clubhouse was barely visible and the club looked dead. MCC members believed that their grounds might be used for a car park. They decided they must “think outside the square” and members began to remove the vines, two fence panels at a time. Slowly the clubhouse and lawns came into view. 

MCC began applying for every grant that was offering [four or more] each year, mostly for “Come and Try” days. Leaflets were distributed by the members, around the vicinity and beyond, mainly by letter box drops. Sometimes the grant allowed for a small notice in the Westside News. Signs [hand painted] were hung on the fences, “Available for Functions”, and people started to come.

The Gateball Grant: Early in 2003, members Bill Reynolds and Beryl Holmes [grants officer] were staffing a stall at the “QUT Open Day” to try to recruit members.  Beryl was preparing a submission this time for “A New Initiative”.  Bill suggested MCC start Gateball, even though they knew nothing about the game. MCC was awarded a grant.  “What is Gateball?” the members asked.

President June Tait knew and contacted Edna Vincent, a member of CAQ who worked at the South Brisbane Head Office. She had been to Japan and seen it played [or had played a game] and was keen to start Gateball in Brisbane. MCC had no money and certainly none to buy new equipment.

Sticks: June organised for 10 wooden sticks to be made and bought 10 hockey balls. Later, Bill believed sticks could be made from aluminium rods and golf stick handles. Beryl’s handyman brother, Ray Clark, constructed 24 sticks. [They are still being used.]

Gates:  Made by a metal firm, in East Brisbane

Court:  Bill made one from white woven tape and another was made from rope.

Score boards:  Jill Whitehouse found two small white boards handed in to the Salvation Army. Different businesses donated small advertising magnets which were painted red and black and used for markers. Later, Bernie Finnigan made three big permanent hanging score boards, again from recycled materials. 

Wristband scorers:  Bill made them; using solid white plastic squares with punched holes along which pink and white bead markers [attached by fishing line] were moved. Elastic held them on.

Play starts: Leaflets were again distributed for a “Come and Try” and Gateball began at MCC with an Open Day in late July 2003. Players were recruited; friends and family came. Later a small group of students from University of Queensland came to play. Within a short time Edna Vincent suggested that they join East Brisbane to form teams to play in the Gateball Australian Championships to be held at the end of October 2003. Such was the enthusiasm of the MCC players that they decide to enter two teams from MCC; the Muttaburrasaurs and the Echnidas. Bill bought a proper set of Gateball balls so that we could correctly judge distances. No, MCC didn’t win but each team did get a “Bravery Award” and a great time was had by all. Best of all, they saw the visiting Asian teams playing. They knew how much they had to improve!  

When MCC’s UQ players graduated, they went to Canberra and started the [very successful] team in the Canberra Club.  MCC had to lend them sticks [flying them by plane] so that their team could play in the Australian Championships in Sydney, in 2005.  MCC also competed; the Blue MAC’s were established.

June Tait records in her Annual report in 2004, that MCC’s membership had doubled to 50 plus.

MCC was by then playing Golf Croquet and Ricochet as well as Assoc. Croquet and Gateball She stated that: “playing a wide range of Mallet Sports is successful for MCC” and that “our variety is our strength”

In 2010 MCC is still the only Brisbane club regularly playing Gateball although Wynnum and Eildon are almost established.

Beryl Holmes    

Nowadays the annual McIlwraith Challenge Competition is held early in the year (except for 2020 because of the Covid 19 virus) as the first of many Club Competitions held around the State for Gateball players.  

Gateball Games in action at McIlwraith

The Clubhouse from a distance as Bernie takes his shot.

4 thoughts on “Not Deterred By a Virus

  1. A nice uplifting story of grit, resilience,working together and reaching goals.
    Thank you, Beryl and John, it made my day! I began using hiking poles on my daily walks in March, which I have enjoyed doing. HOwever, I am pleased that my croquet mallet & stick will soon be in my hands, to play with others at our Club. I have missed my croquet buddies. Next week we commence play although restrictions will apply. When Sunday Gateball is back on the agenda for members from other clubs to join us at Strathfield, I will let the GB group know.

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