Nina Mayard-Husson. PHOTO/FLICKR

CROQUET
CHRIS COGDALE
chris.cogdale@age.co.nz

A highly-competitive field will line up in the Croquet New Zealand’s women’s invitational tournament which started today at the Masterton Croquet Club’s lawns.

Defending champion, Nina Mayard-Husson, at No 12 on the women’s world rankings, is a hot-favourite to take out the three-day tournament for the Wills Silver Salver.

Mayard-Husson, from Wellington, has been in outstanding form, having won her third consecutive national title without dropping a single game throughout the competition.

She is the Wellington region women’s champion and the Edwina Thompson Silver Tray Open Invitation champion.

Widely regarded as the best player of her generation, Mayard-Husson brings a wealth of experience, having represented New Zealand in tests against Australia on three occasions and in the world championships in England.

Masterton’s Carissa Price is expected to be a strong contender for the title.

Price, ranked 34 in the world, has strong form going into the event, and has previously won the Gold Cup in the 2014 Women’s Invitation and been runner-up in 2017. She also the advantage of playing on lawns that she knows so well.

Completing the field are Wellington’s Baubre Murray, [63 in the world], two players from the Bay of Plenty – Cindy Clarke [50] and Heather Richardson [73], as well as South Taranaki’s Bonnie Johnstone [53], who has been described as the ‘Audrey Hepburn of New Zealand croquet’.

“Johnstone is an attractive player to watch who plays a strongly attacking game. Murray is an experienced international player, having competed at the inaugural women’s world championships in Melbourne,” tournament manager and Masterton Association Croquet Club captain Terry Price said.

“Clarke can beat any player on any given day and, last year, Richardson won the Croquet New Zealand Gold Cup.”

“It is a very competitive field and we’re delighted Masterton gets to host the event,” he said.

The tournament will also be a good opportunity to test the club’s new third lawn.

“We’ve given our lawns extra care and attention over the dry spell – we’ve had to get the lawns at just the right speed,” Price said.

“This should ensure good, competitive croquet over the weekend by some of the best in the country. It should be a treat for players and spectators a like”.

Play at the Masterton Croquet Club lawns at Queen Elizabeth Park is from 9am each day until Sunday.