HORSHAM croquet champion Ken Bald will fly to New Zealand next week for the most prestigious croquet tournament in the world.
Bald will represent Australia at the MacRobertson Shield, which features four of the top croquet nations in the world.
Australia, New Zealand, England and the United States will contest the shield.
Bald, who is the 21st-ranked croquet player in the world and third in Australia, said being selected in the six-person team was a dream come true.
He has previously played for Australia at four world championships and the trans-Tasman series against New Zealand, but said this time would be even more special.
“This is the top of the croquet tree – it doesn’t get any bigger than this,” he said.
“To be picked for it, I’m absolutely over the moon and I’m ready to go.”
Bald said the baggy green cap he received for making the team – similar to ones worn by Australian cricketers – was now his most treasured possession.
The tournament starts on December 30 and finishes on January 15.
Bald said Australia had not won the MacRobertson Shield since 1935 and finished last when it was staged in 2010.
But he said the Australians would be in with a good chance this time around.
“We’ve got youth, medium and experienced players in this team so people think we’ve got a good chance of doing better than we normally do,” he said.
“We’ve got the number one player in the world Robert Fletcher and his brother Malcolm and I coached those two boys when they first started playing croquet.
“Our main aim is to beat the United Kingdom, because if we beat them, we’re in with a show.”
Bald said Australia had not beaten the English team for many years, but with England missing some of its star players from previous tournaments, they could be a weaker target this time.
He said the US team could also be beaten, leaving New Zealand as the favourite for the tournament.
Bald said he was proud to be selected as the oldest member of the Australian side.
“I’m the most senior man to make the side, which I’m tickled pink about,” he said.
“It just shows the age barrier doesn’t come and if you’re good enough you can make it.”