Oxford goes cock-a-hoop over Croquet cuppers

Sport University Sport
Oxford University croquet cuppers final back in 1986
Oxford University croquet cuppers final back in 1986

With the exception of a few games in hand and the odd tournament, the sporting fixtures that we relied on for distraction in Michaelmas and Hilary have pretty much all dried up by now, so you may find yourself at a loss this term for ways of breaking up the endless tedium of revision. But fear not, because along with the constantly looming threat of exams, Trinity term plays host to the year’s biggest and most eagerly anticipated sporting event, with over 2100 participants across the university. Forget Varsity football. Forget The Boat Race. It’s time to dig out your mallet and flat-soled shoes for Croquet Cuppers 2013.

The nine-round knockout competition, which promises a cash prize for the victors, takes place every week throughout the term and is open to all levels of experience and ability. But those of you who imagine a relaxed and flexible affair that doesn’t really take itself seriously: don’t be fooled. With so many teams taking part, the tournament functions like a well-oiled military operation under the command of its organiser Fred Woodcock. Each team captain is responsible for arranging their weekly matches and registering the result via e-mail, with a zero-tolerance policy on lateness. The OUCC website states: “We run it to a very tight schedule. Deadlines will be strictly enforced.”  And don’t expect the participants to be any less earnest than those in charge: for many croquet enthusiasts, the annual Cuppers tournament is the highlight of their Oxford experience. One Merton medic enthused: “I live for croquet cuppers; it’s the only reason I applied to go here,” to which a biologist added, “whenever I feel stressed out about work or exams I remind myself that my next match is just around the corner and I smile inside.”

Dan Guinness, a member of last year’s winning team, is taking all steps necessary to ensure that glory is his once again: “I’ve taken the extreme measure of getting metal rods surgically inserted up my spine to assist in stability and accuracy for my long shots.”

Keble’s success last year has inspired much enthusiasm amongst newcomers to the college. Felix Hamer, a human scientist, said, “We’ve put in the hard yards this year. My mum has already bought me a new jacket to play in and I’ve spent £200 on Pimms mix. With that sort of investment we really ought to win.”

Sadly, applications for this year’s Cuppers are over, but with so many entrants there’s bound to be some croquet fun to be had supporting your college.

PHOTO/ebatty