IT IS just five years since James Wombwell first picked up a croquet mallet on the court at Casterton and this month, the 12-year-old will head to his second Under 21 Golf Croquet National Championship.
Grandson of the late Merrilyn Wombwell, a member of the Casterton club, the sport appears to be in Wombwell’s genes, as he was a natural from day one.
“From the moment we started, I realised he had an extraordinary ability to understand the subtleties of the sport,” club secretary, Ellie Norris said.
“He took advice readily and showed plenty of emotion when something didn’t quite work out.
“However, he immediately got over it to try again with the next ball.”
Wombwell’s enthusiasm James’ enthusiasm for croquet never wavered even when his peers who were competing in more physical sports spoke about croquet as “something old people played”.
The Casterton Croquet Club is the only once in Victoria to offer a junior program, which includes the annual Ruby Foster Championship and Foodworks Grand Final Countdown Competition.
As part of the program, in 2017 Wombwell attended a two-day coaching clinic with Croquet Victoria in Melbourne and in January, last year, he and four teammates were the only Victorian team to compete in the Under 21 Golf Croquet Nationals, in Adelaide.
“Their contribution to this event has been recognised by Croquet Victoria and the Australian Croquet Association, with funds now becoming available through a Junior Croquet Scholarship to offset travel and accommodation for the families who make the effort for these young players to compete, as well as coaching opportunities by a certified coach,” Norris said.
Next week, Wombwell heads to Geraldton, WA, for his second shot at the national titles.
“James has been practising very hard; his commitment is total and he is a credit to his family, the club and the sport,” Norris said.
“The Casterton Lions have been generous to assist with funds for a certified Croquet Victoria Coach and recently appointed Director of Golf Croquet, Geelong-based Ian Peterson, to visit Casterton for some one-on-one coaching.
“This has seen James further improve his skills and strategic game.
“He will also be travelling to Geelong for some further coaching before his flight to Perth and then on to Geraldton.
“We wish him the very best in his endeavours.”
FOUR games of croquet were enjoyed by eight club members on Saturday, despite the warm conditions.
Game 1. Ellie Norris and James Wombwell 7 pts d Sandra White and Yvonne Alexander.
Game 2. Steve Swanwick and Joy Harvey 7 pts d Heather Payne and Sue Slorach 5 pts.
Game 3. Steve Swanwick and Yvonne Alexander 7 pts d Sandra White and Heather Payne 4 pts.
Game 4. James Wombwell and Joy Harvey 7 pts d Sue Slorach and Ellie Norris 2 points.