As a result of Covid, NSW Gateballers have been missing the round of competitions we have come to enjoy in recent years. The last time we met up for interclub competition was the Newcastle Triples event this time last year. We were all looking forward to things picking up again in 2021. So it was very sad that the Lithgow lawn was not quite ready to re-open for the first competition of the year in February. How could we get some much needed competition practice?
A few of us put our heads together and came up with the idea of a Covid Claytons Competition – a mini-comp for a strictly limited number of players from around the Sydney region, to be hosted by the Hazelbrook Croquet Club, where Gateball has recently been introduced by Lithgow exiles and which now boasts a small, but keen contingent of Gateballers.
The format of the competition was three rounds of three games, played on one lawn. In each round, each team played two games and officiated once. Teams consisted of six players, with two trained referees in every team and everyone else taking on the other duties. Definitely no time to relax!
We never know what the weather will be like in the Blue Mountains, but Valentine’s Day dawned bright and clear, the mist and rain having cleared miraculously overnight. And, amazingly, it stayed fine all day!
The major challenge for our visitors (from Newcastle, Toronto, Strathfield, Epping and Lithgow) was the super-fast lawn at Hazelbrook, as we play on a bowling green. However, outballs notwithstanding, players adapted to the conditions and we all enjoyed some exciting games, played to competition standard, with strict time limits and effective refereeing. Petula Shun, from Strathfield, successfully completed her Level 2 Referee practical assessment during the competition. Congratulations to her.
In the end, the home ground advantage worked in favour of the Hazelbrook team, who won all their games, which was a really positive outcome for the 3 players from Hazelbrook experiencing competition standard GB for the first time. But many of the games were a real tussle and so very enjoyable for both competitors and spectators. (I enjoyed overhearing comments from a group of bowlers sitting enjoying a beer at the clubhouse and watching the sliding and bombarding and the interplay between Referee A and B. “Like snooker, isn’t it? Looks quite complicated. Think I’ll stick to bowling!)
We were well supported by the Hazelbrook Bowling and Sporting Club, who opened the clubhouse early for us – and even offered to have the bar open at 9am! (Which perhaps relates back to the comments above!!)
All in all, a low key, but positive start to competition for Gateballers in NSW in 2021. Thanks to all who participated in any way.