A humble queen of greens

August 02, 2017

Mary Grieve (front, second from right) was a member of the state side for eight years.

Mary Grieve reached the pinnacle of croquet, winning the Australian Ladies' Championships three years straight.

A Mooroopna Croquet Club stalwart, Mary Grieve won the club championship a huge 29 times.

Greater Shepparton Sports Hall of Fame inductee

A family tragedy was the reason Mooroopna’s Mary Grieve took up croquet.

Following the death of her 14-year-old daughter Jennifer from leukaemia in 1967, Grieve’s neighbour Nell Hall invited her along to the croquet courts to have a hit.

First using the game as a distraction during a difficult time, Grieve’s eldest daughter Betty D’Amore said it was the beginning of another strong association with a sport, as Grieve was always a talented athlete.

‘‘She would play (croquet) two or three times a week and later on she took up (lawn) bowling and she was a brilliant bowler and a brilliant tennis player too,’’ D’Amore said.

Beginning to show a high level of talent in the 1970s, Grieve gradually worked her way up to be a dominant force at Mooroopna Croquet Club.

Grieve was crowned club champion 29 times, but she always remained humble about her achievements.

‘‘She was very shy, she was never boastful, it was only because she kept (newspaper) cuttings or you would have no idea (of her success),’’ D’Amore said.

There were plenty of newspaper clippings to keep as Grieve’s success grew with each season.

Her first major tournament win came in 1975 when she won the Victorian B-grade title in her first go at a major event, then went on to win the A-grade junior championship in the same year.

That was just the beginning of her achievements, with illustrious seasons seeing Grieve earn a hat-trick of Australian Ladies’ Champion crowns from 1985-87.

To cap the decade Grieve represented Australia in a Trans-Tasman clash against New Zealand in 1989, helping her side to victory.

Meanwhile, she was consistently earning state selection as a member of the Victorian team for eight years with five state singles championships won during her peak.

After she picked up the sport her husband Theo became her biggest supporter.

‘‘My dad was a bowler and she supported him, but when she took up croquet he just became her number one fan,’’ D’Amore said.

‘‘He used to go down and look after the croquet greens and helped out with all that sort of thing, he was really proud of her and really supportive.’’

Grieve’s talent for the sport and penchant for tactics — key to a game such as croquet — led to Grieve taking up coaching.

It was a way to give back to the sport for Grieve, as D’Amore said her mum was generally a reserved person.

‘‘In later years she was a coach and a referee, and Mum was shy — so for her to stand out and do refereeing and coaching she would have had to push herself to do it, she was very unassuming,’’ she said.

‘‘There’s a gorgeous photo of her playing tennis and she’s got her hands up laughing, normally she was quite subdued when she won.’’

Grieve’s power on the tennis court was extraordinary, and she was a consistent A-grade player.

She was also handy at table tennis.

Grieve and her husband’s sporting feats were so prolific they needed to clear out some of the silverware they collected, as Grieve also played bowls at Mooroopna Golf and indoor bowls at Mooroopna.

‘‘She and Dad won lots and lots of trophies of all sorts because they were both good sportspeople in many sports, and every Christmas for a few years they would bring four gifts — so one for all of us (children),’’ she said.

‘‘They would bring four presents all wrapped up and they wouldn’t remember what was in them, and we would just pick one and it would be one of their prizes, a tray or a plate or something — re-gifting it’s called now,’’ D’Amore said with a laugh.

Both of D’Amore’s parents received life membership at Mooroopna Football Club for their tireless work, with Grieve in charge of the canteen on match day.

D’Amore remembers her mum dispensing hotdogs and lollies out of a caravan that served as a kiosk.

These were further commitments Grieve made, mixed in with time as president of Mooroopna Croquet Club as well as fulfilling the roles of secretary and treasurer.

Naturally the club’s most successful export also received life membership for her decades of commitment to the growth of the sport in the town.

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