Polocrosse is a team sport that is played all over the world. It is a combination of polo and lacrosse. It is played outside, on a field (the pitch), on horseback. Each rider uses a cane stick to which is attached a racquet head with a loose, thread net, in which the ball is carried. The ball is made of sponge rubber and is approximately four inches across. The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball between the opposing team's goal posts.
Anyone who can ride a horse can play polocrosse, which also helps improve riding skills. All ages and abilities are encouraged to play and the Pony Club have recognised polocrosse as a horse sport.
To get started, players need a recognized safety helmet, a racquet, a ball, leg wraps and coronet boots for the horse.
Unlike polo, players are allowed only to play one horse, except in the case of injury. There is no restriction on the horse's height, although the ideal should not exceed about 16 hands. Horses of all breeds play polocrosse and the Australian Stock Horse is the most popular breed playing in Australia. Stallions are not permitted to play.
A team consists of six players, divided into two sections of three who play 3-4 alternate chukkas of six minutes, and eight minutes in international games. A match comprises six or eight chukkas. The three players in each section play the position of a No. 1, attack, a No. 2, midfield (a combination of defence and offence), or a No. 3, defence.
The team structure was designed to force players to pass the ball about amongst themselves, making it a better skilled, faster sport. There are four quarters in an average game and these are called chukkas.
The field is 60 by 160 yards (55 × 150 m), with three separate areas. The goal scoring areas, on each end, are 30 yards long. Only the No. 1 of the attacking team and the No. 3 of the defending team can play in these areas.
The middle area is 100 yards long. The line separating the goal scoring and centre areas is called the penalty or thirty-yard line. Goal posts are eight feet apart. To score, the ball must be thrown from outside an 11-yard semicircle in front of the goal.
Players can pick up the ball from the ground, catch it in their racquet, and ride with it. They throw it to other players until the No.1 has possession in the goal scoring area. A player cannot carry the ball over the penalty line, but must bounce it so that they do not have possession of it while actually crossing the line. It can also be passed to a player over the line.
When carrying the ball, a player must carry it on the stick side, i.e. right-handed players must carry it on the offside of the horse (if a person has possession of the ball and crosses the racket over the centre-line of the horse (the line that runs from the horses ears to the tail) it is a foul). A player can, however, pick-up or catch the ball on the non-stick side provided they immediately bring it back to their stick side.
The game begins in centre field with the players lining up, one section beside the other, with the No. 1s in front, followed by the 2's and then the 3's. This is called a line up and occurs at a spot in the middle of the pitch called the T. The umpire then throws the ball between the players, between shoulder and racket height so that all players have a chance to catch the ball. The teams always line up so that the other team is lined up between the number 1 and the goal they must score at.
The game recommences similarly after a goal has been scored, with the line up taking place on the alternate side of the field for every goal that is scored. Whenever an attempt at goal fails, the No. 3 throws the ball back into play from the penalty line. This throw (like all penalty throws) must travel at least 10 yards. The No. 3 can throw the ball to themselves or to a team member. If they elect to throw to themselves, the ball must bounce before they can regain possession, but they are to have first call on the ball, before opposition players can attempt to regain possession. This penalty throw is called a 10 yard throw.
The most common award given in the case of a penalty is a 10 yard throw. Where the foul occurred determines the position on the field at which the throw is taken. If the throw is awarded in mid-field, any member of the team can take it. If a penalty occurs in the end zones only the player allowed to play in that area may take the throw. Depending on the nature of the penalty, the 10 yard throw may be taken at the spot where the penalty occurred or it may be moved down the field to give advantage to the fouled team. For example, if the team carrying the ball is fouled, the penalty will most likely be moved down the field to give advantage to the fouled team, however if the team carrying the ball commits the foul the ball may just be turned over to the other team at the point where the infraction occurred.
Not all fouls are punished with a ten yard throw. Particularly dangerous fouls (such as hitting another player in the head or helmet with the racket) result in free goals being given to the fouled team. Additionally if a player continues to commit penalties and behave dangerously they can be dismissed from the team.
If both teams are responsible for a penalty the game is restarted with a line up. If the penalty occurs in the end zone or as the ball is moving into the end zone, the 1 and 3 players are lined up in the end zone (with the 3 closer to the goal posts) and the ball is thrown between the two players. If the penalty occurs in the midfield or as the ball is being taken into the mid-field the game is restarted with a six man line up in mid-field.
If the ball goes out of bounds off of a horse, the teams are lined up and the ball is thrown between them. If this occurs in the end zone only the number 1 and 3 players line up.
It is also illegal to ride through the goal posts, if the three or one's horse's back legs pass through the posts, it is an automatic free goal to the opposing team (International rule).
Players can get the ball from the opposition by hitting at an opponent's stick in an upwards direction only, with the swing starting from below the horses quarters when swing is forward, or below the horses withers when the swing is backward. This is done either to dislodge the ball or to prevent the opposition from gaining possession of it, this is called "giving wood". Riding off is also allowed, but crossing, stopping over the ball, or elbowing constitutes fouls. Sandwiching one player between two others also constitutes a foul. Fouls result in a free throw (aka ten-yard throw) to the offended side.
The modern game was developed in Australia before the Second World War. In 1938 Mr. and Mrs. Edward Hirst of Sydney read an article in an English Horse Magazine on Polo Crosse. As both were keen on horse breeding and horse sports they decided to find out more about it when they got to England. On arrival, they visited the National School of Equitation at Kingston Vale near London, where two instructors had developed an exercise to supplement the work at the riding School and help young riders take better charge of their horses.
The exercise was played indoors with two riders a side and markers on the wall from which the ball bounced back into play. The goals were elongated basketball nets hung at each end of the arena. The sticks were old polo sticks that had the polo mallet removed and replaced with a squash racquet head. This had a shallow string net, which they used to scoop up the ball. The idea was to scoop up the ball, which was a little larger than a tennis ball, ride with it to the end of the arena and drop it into the net to score.
Realising the possibilities of this exercise as an outdoor horse sport, the couple returned to Australia with sticks, balls and rule books where they sought the assistance of Alf Pitty, a well known horseman and polo player.
After many hours of discussion, practising, and much trial and error and with constant revision of the rules, they finally came up with a new and exciting game using only one horse and able to be played by a person of any age. They called the new game Polocrosse.
After all their careful designing, Pitty then helped to give the first recorded polocrosse demonstration at Ingleburn Sports Ground near Sydney in 1939. Interest and enthusiasm was so great that it was not long before all the club members were practising this new game. A short time later in 1939 a meeting was called at Ingleburn to form the first Polocrosse Club. At this meeting the first book of the rules of the game was established. Burradoo was the next polocrosse club to be made in Australia and is now the longest running club in Australia.
In 1962 Walcha became the first club team to win the Lennon trophy at the Australian Red Cross championships at Maitland when the four Goodwin brothers, Paul, Maurice, Noel and Brian together with Bob Gill and John Nixon played as the North New England No 1 team.
Polocrosse in South Africa started in the early 1950s. The first International tour of South Africa was in 1968 by Rhodesia and followed by the Australians in 1971. Polocrosse finally made it back to the United Kingdom in 1978, when it was introduced to two branches of the Pony Club in Surrey. It continued to be played at Pony Club level, with its popularity slowly growing. The arrival of polocrosse players from Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia) and South Africa in the UK in the early 1980s led to the establishment of polocrosse clubs outside of the Pony Club and in 1985 the UK Polocrosse Association was formed. Polocrosse became an official Pony Club activity with its own championship at around the same time. Polocrosse is also played in France, Germany, New Zealand, the United States, Canada, Norway, the Netherlands, Papua New Guinea, Indonesia, Uruguay, Vanuatu, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
Polocrosse in Ireland
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In 1990 polocrosse came to Ireland. Brothers, David and Ivor Young introduced Polocrosse to Ireland in 1990 as an additional tourism attraction to their residential equestrian holiday business in Co. Wexford. David had just read an article on Polocrosse in a UK Equestrian Magazine. Interested to learn more about this exciting game, the two brothers had an Australian coach (Bernie Uechtritz) at Horetown House some five weeks later. In the early stages, the game was only played at Horetown House, Co. Wexford but it wasn’t long before Brian McMahon of Rathcannon in Co. Limerick heard about this new game, and Limerick Polocrosse Club was the next club to be established. From here polocrosse expanded rapidly in Ireland, with several other clubs springing up around Ireland, including, Tipperary (based in Clonmel, Co. Tipperary), Carrickmines (Based in Carrickmines, South Dublin), Waterford (based in Tramore, Co.Waterford), Birr (Based in Birr Co.Offaly) and two new recent additions the Cork Club (based on Hop Island, Co.Cork) and Tyrella (Based in Tyrella Co.Down).
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- Polocrosse: A Practical Guide to Australia's Own Horse Sport, Amanda Choice, 1992, University of New England, 200 pages, ISBN 1-86389-006-8.
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- Polocrosse Rules & Information on the Game, Polocrosse Association of Australia Incorporated, 2008.
- The best jumping off point
- Polocrosse Association of South Africa
- Pony Club (UK) polocrosse information
- American Polocrosse Association
- American Polocrosse Association's Easern Zone Website
- Polocrosse Club playing out of Millarville Alberta Canada
- Polocrosse Canada, Canada's National Polocrosse Organization
- Burradoo Australia's Oldest Polocrosse Club since 1945
- The International Polocrosse Governing Body
- Polocrosse Canada