A haven for retirees, Port Stephens has seen strong development over many years in many of the sport’s gentler pursuits, most notably golf and tennis.
More recently, however, there has been a spike in interest in grass croquet due to its appeal to both men and women of all ages and abilities – and the dedication and dedication of one Margaret-Rose Thompson.
Through her passion for playing, coaching and refereeing, Margaret, who has lived in the Bay for 32 years, has been instrumental in elevating croquet to its growing popularity not just in Port Stephens, but across the state and indeed the entire country. country.
She was part of the team that founded the Nelson Bay Croquet Club in 1996, along with Eric and Anne Bone and her devoted husband Tommy Thompson, and the couples have been duly recognized with the naming of the club’s first two lawns in his honor. theirs.
Her continued contributions over many years are a tribute to her administrative prowess and her ability to remain active during her retirement year.
From humble beginnings, the club has thrived, starting with an initial membership of 17 people and growing to over 100.
The club’s home ground also flourished. Initially playing on a patch of hockey grass at the old Tomaree complex, the club has been able to upgrade by first moving to one of Nelson Bay Bowling Club’s greens before finally securing their own brand new facility adjacent to the Tomaree match field.
It was a small advertisement in the Examiner Calling for players interested in croquet that got the ball rolling and swinging the hammers. There were 11 people who showed up that day, and they had no idea of the great heights the nearly obscure sport would reach over the next 26 years.
Born in England, where she later met and married her childhood sweetheart Tommy (an Air Force pilot), Margaret enjoyed a carefree childhood and developed a love of the outdoors, including trying different sports.
“My father was in the British Air Force, so we traveled a lot. As well as traveling around Britain, we also had periods in California (three years), Malta (three years) and Germany (2.5 years),” said Margaret.
“I was able to adapt to the changes by picking up what was needed at school, but my biggest passion was being outdoors, which was sports, especially netball, hockey, squash and tennis.
“Croquet had a big following in Britain and I had admired the game as a kid. It was something I dreamed of playing one day.” Little did she realize that the sport would engulf her later in life.
The Thompsons – the proud parents of three children and four grandchildren – decided to emigrate to Australia in 1968 for a better, “warmer” life “and I haven’t regretted it for a minute”.
Since helping start the Nelson Bay club 25 years ago, Margaret says croquet has become her life and she has loved every minute of it.
“I love the club, I love the people… it’s one big happy family.”
After losing her devoted husband Tommy after 64 years of marriage in 2020, Margaret says she’s slowed down a bit. “Nowadays I only play socially, but I get just as much pleasure and satisfaction from coaching and refereeing.”
Margaret, who has held a number of positions on the Nelson Bay Croquet Club Committee, including two years as president, was named a Life Member in 2008.
She coached, played and whistled all three forms of croquet: association, ricochet and golf. In fact, about 10 years ago, she was responsible for introducing ricochet croquet to Nelson Bay and throughout NSW.
The game of ricochet croquet was invented in 1984 by an Australian, John Riches, and Margaret has been the main proponent of coaching sessions and refereeing courses across the state.
“I drove to Queensland to take a refereeing course and then traveled across the state to conduct workshops.”
Margaret has refereed at international, national, state and club levels, including the inaugural Women’s World Championships held in Cairnlea, Melbourne, the Australian Singles Championships and the Interstate Shield on many occasions, and the Croquet NSW State Singles and Doubles Championships, as well as as district and club events within the Hunter region.
Today, the club plays both social and competitive matches on four professionally maintained full-size courts five days a week and has a small clubhouse on site. “We also have an active program of social events.”
Despite her husband Tommy’s declining health, she continued to travel selflessly and conduct coaching sessions and referee exams, never saying no.
“I could never have accomplished all of this without the wonderful support and care of my husband Tommy. He had always been encouraging and my biggest fan.”
Margaret’s tireless work in promoting and developing the club since its inception has been recognized over the years by a number of awards and certificates. She has also been instrumental in recruiting and coaching players with the enviable records of a 100 percent retention rate.
When Fingal Haven was looking for a club on their Fingal Bay site several years ago, Margaret went out of her way to coach 35 members who had no previous experience with the basics of golf croquet, along with several follow-up sessions.
Peter Freer, of Canberra Croquet Club and an Australian player at three world championships, said that if he ever got stuck for anything he would call Margaret and she was always willing to help.
The club has also honored Margaret and Tommy Thompson with a trophy – an annual singles golf croquet competition open to all Nelson Bay Croquet Club members.
For the uninitiated, golf croquet (social) play sessions last approximately three hours and include three games with a tea break between the second and third games. On Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday mornings, players can just show up for a game, while Wednesday, Friday morning and Saturday afternoon are designated for full-court sessions and players must register before the session.
There is usually a random draw for partners and opponents, although handicap events are occasionally organized.
“The special thing about our club is that men can play women and get along. You don’t have all the men in one corner and the women in another. We welcome all newcomers, including people with disabilities.”
We want to find the people in the port’s sports community who deserve the spotlight. Be it a star athlete, a silent achiever, a dedicated volunteer, we want to know who they are. In an email titled “Sports Nomination”, send the details, including name, sport/club, a piece about the person you are nominating and a photo to firstname.lastname@example.org.