Cross on Crosby

Peter Cross goes to meet our new, well newish Squash VP

The reaction to the announcement that George Crosby was taking over as squash vice president was mixed. There was muted euphoria from those of us who knew and liked him on one side and a baffled ‘Why are you guys so pleased?’ from members who didn’t.    

Off court and on George is a quiet, dignified gentleman. We will consider his various roles at the club as a player, barperson and VP in due course but first some background.  George was brought up in Blenheim at the top of the South Island. He was the youngest of three and raised in a sporting family. His father, a partner in a law firm, got to B1 and might have done even better had he competed in a more demanding environment and his mother, a schoolteacher rose to C1 which is also pretty impressive. Like his siblings before him, George was introduced to squash early and started by hitting balls down the corridor at home. He played in junior tournaments from nine or ten onwards and was soon doing well in National competitions. Like all the other good tennis and squash players I’ve interviewed so far he was keen on other sports. In his case there’s tennis, cricket, golf, rugby and skiing as well.

George read law and commerce at university. Initially he worked for a law firm before moving on to working in the banking sector and currently works as a fund manager for NZ Super. He decided against becoming a lawyer, as he sees it lawyers are responsible for the documents and ensuring iees are dotted and tees crossed while his role involves more interesting work and making decisions.

The OE in England was spent in London’s Square Mile as a derivatives trader at BNP Paribas, French bank, rather than an extended sabbatical paid for by casual employment. He took advantage of the capital’s elite squash facilities playing at Lambs, a club that attracted professional squash players and hosted the British Open and when that closed down the RAC the sort of gentlemen’s clubs that crops up in PG Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster novels. The return to the land of milk and honey in 2008 was precipitated not by the financial meltdown which they just missed but by the pregnancy of George and Hannah’s eldest daughter. They concluded that here rather than the UK was a better place to raise children. The couple first rented in Mount Eden and George played a season at Remuera before they moved to their present address which is 467 metres from the club.

Herne Bay is blessed with some good players. George is our current champion. But he has what few others have: class. Hard to describe but there is something of a Roger Federer about the way he conducts himself both on and off the court. An immaculate technique is coupled with a calm disposition. It’s hard to imagine him getting involved in an argument over a wrong decision. He makes playing squash seem effortless and like all good players appears to have far more time than the rest of us. I was watching George playing a friendly recently. His opponent was pretty good but still lost perhaps a dozen points on the bounce. Then this guy delivered a perfect drop shot an inch above the tin on the front right hand wall. George was at the back of the left hand court, as far away as it’s possible to be. With the grace and speed of a falcon in flight he covered the court while the ball hung in mid air waited for his arrival before he punched it perfectly down the wall. The rally continued and George eventually won the point. It would take the slow motion camera work and computer graphics of a BBC Wildlife film crew to work how this impossible feat occurred.

Then there’s George the barman. In this regard he has much of the panache you get from flunkies who pour drinks in clubs like the RAC. He’s had two stints, he put in a few years when he first joined the club, before he gave it a break following the arrival of his third daughter, then returning to the roster a couple of years ago. Serving, to him, is more than just putting a ball into play. Giving something back is something that has been instilled in him since childhood; either helping out in a sporting club dependent on volunteers like ours or serving on school boards as his parents and wife does.

And finally we come to George’s latest role as VP (squash). He is faced by some formidable challenges. Within weeks of taking over there was a tournament to run. There were not enough entrants at various levels so he went and inspected the grading lists and asked members to sign up. People like this correspondent who has hitherto avoided these tournaments for a decade found it impossible to say no. Being proactive is hardly rocket science but it is extremely time consuming.  The tournament was a success, much of it due to his deft management and the support of other members. He is also trying to find ways to attract female squashies, both novices and graded players in sufficient numbers to get the critical mass needed to keep them. Another challenge is ensuring we retain juniors so that they become full members and represent us rather than anyone else. 

Ever the pragmatist George has made a start by getting involved with Club Nights on Thursdays. He has recruited Matt Taylor and one of them is now available to offer tips and encouragement. They are planning to introduce leagues for club members to provide a structure to complement the friendlies most of us now play. He hopes that this structure will help attract and retain new members giving them an opportunity to meet, learn and test themselves against others. It will take a while but the involvement of George and Matt should get results. Both these guys are not only great squash players but great human beings and there is always the hope that being on court with one or the other some of the magic might, just might, rub off.

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