TWO south-west croquet players have helped Australia to a third-place finish at the most prestigious tournament the sport has to offer.
Dundonell brothers Robert and Malcolm Fletcher were part of a six-man team which contested the time-honoured MacRobertson Shield this month.
The shield has been running since 1925 and is contested every three or four years between Australia, England, New Zealand and the United States.
The four countries each play five-day Tests against each other, with the players contesting both singles and doubles matches.
The 2013-14 edition ran for 17 days from December 30 to January 15 in New Zealand.
New Zealand won the shield and ended the dominance of Great Britain, which had won seven times in a row before England competed as its own entity. Australia finished third, losing to New Zealand (15-4) and England (16-5) but beating the US in its last match (17-4).
Robert, the current men’s singles world champion, and Malcolm emerged from the Test having represented Australia admirably.
Robert, 20, won five out of his six singles matches and four out of his nine doubles matches, teaming with Stephen Foster and Tim O’Leary.
Malcolm, 19, emerged victorious in three out of his singles rubbers and three out of his nine doubles rubbers with Ken Bald.
“We’ve gone up a level from last time, (when) we came fourth. We were really close to winning a lot of matches,” Malcolm said yesterday.
“But the scores didn’t depict that. We were disappointed but we knew how close we were. It’s really good for next time but disappointing for this time.”
Robert represented Australia at the MacRobertson Shield in 2010 but Malcolm made his debut in the tournament.
“It was a very good experience to play over such a long period of time. Keeping a high standard is very difficult,” he said.
“I can always draw on that for the tournaments I play in. The Australian Open I’ve always struggled in. I get to the semi-final and lose.”
Robert and Malcolm are among five children for parents David and Cathy, who run 1000 head of sheep on 400 acres at Dundonell.
The brothers, along with a third sibling Greg who was an emergency for the Australian team, honed their craft at the Lismore Croquet Club.
Their story is among the more unique of elite-level Australian sport stars but they wouldn’t have it any other way.
“It’s a great sport. It’s a lot different to what you might think,” Malcolm said.