Grace Edwards OAM

Sports Hall of Fame Inductee

Category: Sports Hall of Fame

Sport: Croquet Player

In the 1970’s one of the highlights of the sporting calendar was the Sports star of the year night presented by the Sherbourne Apex Club.

One particular year one of the world’s best cricketers, West Indian Sir Garfield Sobers topped the bill of speakers and enthralled the audience. Following his speech, during question time a strikingly handsome well- groomed and articulate woman rose to speak. She challenged Sir Garfield to try his hand at the sport of croquet and suggested that he would be welcome at the Shepparton Croquet Club. Sobers appreciated the challenge and said that he had never played Croquet but would love the opportunity to return to Shepparton to try himself out at the sport.

Sobers did not realise at the time that the lady concerned was Australian champion croquet player Grace Edwards of Shepparton who had risen to the position of president of the Australian Croquet Council. Grace was making the most of the opportunity of giving the sport she loved so much some publicity.

It all started back in the 1950’s when Grace joined the Shepparton Croquet Club and commenced an incredible career in the sport that would take her to the top as both a player and an administrator.

Grace had a natural ability for playing the game, which she described as requiring a combination of billiards and chess skills which is played outside on lush lawns.

In 1955 she entered her first state championship and returned home as the first country player ever to win the Victorian Women’s singles title. Her win was a huge boost to women’s sport in the Goulburn Valley. The titles kept on coming as she won state titles in 1959, ’60, ’72, 76, and ’78 and she also won 4 doubles titles.

Grace was appointed as Victorian captain and represented Victoria for 14 years, 7 as captain in interstate matches and Australian Championships. Grace was the winner of the Australian Gold medal twice, twenty years apart. The pinnacle of her playing career was in 1973 when she won the Australian women’s singles title in Sydney. She was also twice runner up for the National Doubles title.

Grace became chair of selectors for the Australian team and her popularity saw her appointed as advisory councillor to the Australian Croquet Council a position she held for ten years. That experience enabled her to reach the pinnacle of croquet administration when she served six years a president of the Council.

Grace took her role very seriously and travelled extensively to foster the sport around the country. She served six years as president before retiring from the sport at national level. However she continued to support the game at local level and served as a coach for many years as well as being president of the Goulburn Valley Croquet Association. Grace was the recipient of the Order of Australia Medal in 1979 for services to the sport of Croquet.

Grace Edwards was held in the highest esteem by the people of Shepparton who were proud of her as a person, a sports competitor and administrator. Grace led the way in women’s sport in the Goulburn Valley and inspired others to play croquet and to take on roles in administering sport. Grace was honoured by the City of Shepparton when they named Grace Court in the North of Shepparton after her. Grace Edwards was a wonderful participant and mentor and carried the mantle of an Australian champion with dignity and pride.