The Victorian badminton community are saddened by the recent passing of Badminton Victoria Life Member, Clifton Alan “Cliff” Mitchell.
A close friend of Cliff, Trevor Armstrong has shared some personal stories and highlights about Cliff both on and off the badminton court:
There are many wonderful memories of Cliff for those who played badminton particularly in the latter decades of the 1990s will remember with a laugh and a smile.
Cliff was a master of gamesmanship and tactics on the badminton court. Maybe being less fit than an opponent he liked to stop or slow the game.
Requesting permission to stop play and remove one or more sweaters was a common ploy. Taking 2 off and putting 1 back on to take-off later was one of his manoeuvres. Sometimes it was almost impossible to keep a count of the number of short & long sleeve sweaters he may have removed during a game.
On at least one occasion he put a 5 cent coin or something similar in one of his playing shoes. He would then request permission from the umpire to stop play because ‘something’ was in his shoe.
Wanting a breather after a long rally Cliff sometimes complained to the umpire about the shuttlecock, saying it had a broken feather or whatever and needed to be retested or replaced. Maybe him “hmm… accidentally” breaking a feather could have been a contributing factor.
Another tactic involved testing the speed of the shuttlecock before his game commenced. To maybe unsettle his opponent Cliff always seemed to want a different speed shuttlecock to that of his opponents. On one occasion this testing of the shuttlecock speed seemed to continue for an eternity. Watching this, most unimpressed at the shenanigans was the Albert Park Hall Manager, the late Paddy Hutchins who wanted matches to finish as soon as possible so that he could lock-up and go home before midnight. Paddy threatened to report both Cliff and his opponent to the then Victorian Badminton Association (VBA). In his opinion, it was a disgraceful performance, particularly as they were both VBA Board members.
However, one most memorable occasion was after a long rally he asked the umpire if he could leave the court to wipe sweat from his brow with his towel. With approval granted, Cliff casually walked out to his car where it so happened his towel still happened to be that night. Imagine how his opponent felt. Cliff never disclosed whether that was actually planned or not.
Cliff’s other interests included AFL football, water skiing and being a keen boxing fan.
In his teenage years, Cliff was a better-than-average footballer. He played for Preston U19’s in the Victorian Football Association which were undefeated premiers for two years. However, his support of Collingwood, his beloved Magpies was what he was better known for in badminton circles.
He was a good slalom water skier. From the late 1960s into the ‘70s a group of us badminton players hired 2or 3 houseboats at Lake Eildon generally around the last weekend in February. This gave Cliff the opportunity to demonstrate his skiing prowess. On one occasion instead of starting & finishing in the water, Cliff donned his ski whilst still on the houseboat where he jumped from the side as the speed boat took up the slack of the tow rope. At the finished, he cleverly angled the ski to the side of the houseboat where he grabbed hold of the rails to climb back on. Remarkably he never got wet from start to finish. There was some uncertainty as to whether the cigarette he was smoking at the time was still alight.
In the mid-1960s Channel 7 started televising a popular live TV boxing show at Melbourne Festival Hall on Monday nights at 9:30 called TV Ringside, Cliff was a fan of the popular Maori, Kahu Mahunga, who was a real crowd favourite. On a car trip back from the Sydney Open, one Monday evening with his doubles partner Don Cory, Cliff decided they should stop for a hamburger at one of the small country towns the Hume Highway passed through in those years. Cliff offered to go in and order the hamburgers. Time went by with Don becoming increasingly impatient waiting in the car. More than 30 minutes later Cliff returned to the car and simply said ‘Mahunga won’. It is unknown whether Don’s hamburger was still hot enough to enjoy.
Most of Cliff’s social activities were with his badminton friends. He developed a reputation of arriving late and also being the last to leave social functions. One memorable occasion was when a trip to South Melbourne beach was planned one hot summer’s day. Cliff arrived at the meeting place in Richmond at least an hour late, proceeded to pack then overload an old Esky with ice, food and drink. A comment was made about the Esky maybe being unable to support that much weight which Cliff quickly dismissed. Anyway, off they went to the beach and as they started walking on the sand the handle of the Esky broke and all the contents spilt everywhere. And to make matters worse, a typical Melbourne cool change with rain then arrived. So much for an enjoyable day at the beach.
No doubt many badminton players will remember Cliff as being one of the real personalities of the sport in that era.
MITCHELL, Clifton Alan “Cliff”
17 Dec 1942 – 05 Jan 2022
Beloved husband of Oratai.
Loving father of Shane and father-in-law of Samantha.
Like a father to Sunan and beloved by her family.
Adored grandpa to Sheldon, Aria, and Esme.
Eternally loved and now at peace.