From Eaton Park to New Zealand as Norfolk man goes for global glory at croquet world championships
- Credit: Archant
It's a sport which usually conjures up images of aristocratic Victorian gents.
But a man from Norfolk is showing that croquet is still going strong as he jets off to New Zealand to prove he is one of the world's best players.
Sam Murray, 44, from Acle, will head down under later this month to play croquet in the New Zealand Open in Christchurch.
And the following month he will go up against the globe's top competitors in the Association Croquet World Championship in Wellington.
Mr Murray, who took up croquet eight years ago, has already made his mark at a world championship, reaching the last 16 at the previous contest in the United States in 2016.
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On that occasion the location was West Palm Beach in Florida.
But the place he generally plays is somewhat less exotic – Norwich's Eaton Park.
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Mr Murray said: 'I'd played a version of croquet in my back garden when I was young, but what people don't realise – and I didn't realise – was that a full, formal, competitive version exists.
'I discovered that many years later, when I went down to the club where I was living in Surbiton in London.
'I took some lessons and I have been addicted ever since.'
Acknowledging croquet is a mystery to many, he said: 'I think it is a really good combination of skill and of execution.
'You've got to plan your moves ahead and there is a lot of strategy and tactics to it.'
Mr Murray, who works as a model maker from a studio in Norwich's Muspole Street, moved to Norfolk with his partner Ellen Thompson about a year ago and joined Norwich Croquet Club.
On qualifying for the world championships, he explained: 'There's quite a well developed ranking system, a bit like the grading in chess. And once you reach a certain level you qualify for the world championships.
'When I started I never thought I'd be taking part in the world championships. But there's maybe 20,000 players across the world, so there is an opportunity to rise quite quickly.
'When I competed in Florida last time, I was one of the weakest players of the 80 taking part, but I ended up finishing in the last 16 and I hope to at least equal that this time around.'
To find out more about croquet, email norwichcroquetclub@ gmail.com