Harley swaps hammer for mallet

For a man who’s more comfortable working with horses and wearing work boots, croquet is an unusual hobby choice.

But for Lewiston resident and farrier, Harley Watts, it’s a sport he loves, which has seen him compete across the country and around the world.

Similar to lawn bowls, croquet requires players to use a mallet to hit a ball through a series of arches in the shortest time possible.

Not unlike chess, it’s a mental game of tactics, and with the potential for matches to last for up to three hours, it’s also a test of accuracy, speed and stamina.

While many may think this low-profile sport is for retirees, Harley begs to differ, saying a stream of younger players are giving croquet a try, some with great success, as they challenge the often clichéd image of the sport.

Harley reveals there are around 4000 registered players in South Australia alone, and clubs in all other states and territories, except the Northern Territory.

Harley started playing croquet as a 10-year-old after a bout of chickenpox saw him hanging over the fence of the neighbouring croquet club when he lived in Victoria.

His interest was piqued and although he played all the other usual sports like cricket and football, it wasn’t long before he was making his way up the ranks and proudly wearing the green and gold.

Currently a member of the Gawler Croquet Club, Harley recently won a bronze medal at the National Australian Association Croquet Championships held in Adelaide this March.

He is ranked third in the country, and has been a member of the state and national squad numerous times.

“I find the strategic nature of the game is what interests me most,” Harley said.

“Trying to outwit your opponent, that’s the enjoyable part of it.

“And I’ve also gotten to see the world playing a sport I love and met a lot of interesting people.”

Croquet clubs in our area include Gawler, Salisbury and Port Wakefield, or for more information visit www.croquet-australia.com.au.

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