Croquet popular pastime in Queensland, yesterday and today
Digitised images from State Library of Queensland show croquet as the sport of the day in Queensland starting in the mid 1800s. According to Croquet Australia, it provided the first opportunity for women to participate in an outdoor sport with men on an equal basis. Rumour has it that part of its popularity was that one could bash an opponent's balls into the bushes and be ruthlessly competitive in this seemingly staid sport.
From 19th century photographs of croquet in Queensland, we see women in long white gowns and men in top hats playing croquet in Toowong, elegantly belying the idea of any suggestion of competitive behavior.
While the sport may have had a reputed dark side, Queenslanders enjoyed the social aspects of croquet. Newly digitised images from JOL Accession 28591 show that croquet was organised and popular at the turn of the 20th century and proper attire was a must. A croquet tournament at Musgrave Park in 1911 shows rather formal wear for men and women. The hats worn by the women while playing almost defy gravity. It makes one wonder if the weight of the hat may have had adverse impact on the croquet scores. A favourite is the third hat from the right in the first row in the image below.
From the same accession of photographs, we see that croquet tournaments resulted in much sought after prizes that were carefully determined by official score keepers. Note the formal pencil and score card accessories worn by the woman in the back row, left above.
In 1922, Queensland realised the formation of the first Queensland State Association of Croquet with formal rules and registered membership. Constitutions, by-laws and regulations for tournaments were firmly established. Croquet was still on trend in 1935, as shown in a photograph of female players in Kingaroy.