Byron Bay club is growing under Australian champion

STRONG LEADER: Former Australian champion Max Donati is the club captain at Byron Bay Croquet Club. Photos Mitchell Craig
STRONG LEADER: Former Australian champion Max Donati is the club captain at Byron Bay Croquet Club. Photos Mitchell Craig

PASSION in his voice and a love of the game is something former Australian croquet champion and long-term Byron Bay resident Max Donati has in spades.

It is why he has been one of the driving forces behind the revival of the Byron Bay Croquet Club.

The club has more than doubled its membership over the past 12 months and was one of four Northern Rivers clubs who co-hosted the NSW Golf Croquet Championships this week.

Donati has a long association with the sport where he has represented and won Australian titles.

He is now the club captain at Byron Bay where he is teaching existing and new members how to play.

"I've been a member since 1992, but for a lot of those years I just came and practised and wasn't part of the club so much because I was playing tournaments," he said.

"It was probably about two years ago I decided to get involved when I thought the club wasn't heading in the right direction.

"We only had about 10 active members and now we're up to nearly 30.

"That probably came from getting the club playing golf croquet pennants, which they had never been involved in and we had a bit of an advertising campaign, too.

"It's interesting, croquet has that association with older people but you actually need a young mind to be a good player.

"It's interesting, croquet has that association with older people but you actually need a young mind to be a good player."

Max Donati

"Denise Simmons is a new member, she's probably only been here six months or less and she's picked it up, doing a fantastic job."

"We've been lucky that Andy Erskine from Byron Shire Council has upgraded our lawns, they really look after us and the lawns are looking better than they have for probably 10 years or more."

Donati, 62, has been well known in croquet circles across the country since he first represented Australia in 1998.

HAPPY TEAM: Players and volunteers at the state titles held at Byron Bay.

HAPPY TEAM: Players and volunteers at the state titles held at Byron Bay.

Byron Bay croquet club is one of the oldest sporting clubs in town, having been played now for 92 years.

Donati is a long time resident of Byron Bay, having left Sydney in 1983.

"I was playing in a band at the time, we ended buying a van and hitting the road with our instruments in the back," he said.

"We got about three months work here and I ended up staying when the others went home."

He was a keen tennis player and first came across the croquet club when he was on the courts next door.

He and Brett Hewitt were both encouraged to come across from there.

"One of the guys we played with had just joined the croquet club and said it was probably going to die out if other people didn't join," Donati said.

SINGLE FOCUS: Maurie Russell and Jan Brodie are all smiles after their croquet game.

SINGLE FOCUS: Maurie Russell and Jan Brodie are all smiles after their croquet game.

"We ended up going across and just by chance, six weeks after we hit our first ball the regional championships were on.

"Brett and I both won our divisions, and that ended up snowballing on to state level with both of us going on to play for Australia."

  • Anyone keen to learn the game can contact Max on 0431 906 536.

Results from the state titles

The Northern Rivers hosted the NSW Division 3 golf croquet titles over five days at Ballina, Byron Bay and Lismore.

SW Golf Croquet Division 3 Runners Up Deborah Jones and Judy King pictured with tournament manager David Scott

SW Golf Croquet Division 3 Runners Up Deborah Jones and Judy King pictured with tournament manager David Scott

Byron Bay's Michael Dalton won the singles over Ballina Cherry Street club member Penny Scott.

Jan and Keith Brodie from Coutts Crossing defeated Deborah Jones and Judy King from the Ballina Croquet club in the doubles final.

Winner Michael Dalton Byron Bay .Runner Up Penny Scott Ballina Cherry Street with tournament manager David Scott.

Winner Michael Dalton Byron Bay .Runner Up Penny Scott Ballina Cherry Street with tournament manager David Scott.