Fan support for the underdog Canadians' final game against the USA was awesome. The closely contested match saw the lead change sides several times before the final score of 14-11. “If we get 100 people out to watch our annual tournament Stampede week we are thrilled. To play here at night under the lights at Morgan Park in front of 10,000 cheering fans, most pulling for Canada, is a once in a life time experience. Canadians competing against Australia in Polocrosse is like Australians coming here to compete in a Mac's Midget Tournament or better.”

 

...That is how the Canadian players felt after participating in the 2007 Polocrosse World Cup played at Morgan Park, Queensland, Australia April 23-29. Eight countries competed for top dog bragging rights; participating were Zimbabwe, South Africa, Ireland, United Kingdom, United States, New Zealand, Australia & Canada. 200 Polocrosse horses were loaned to the World Cup Horse Committee for the Tournament, the largest gathering of horses since World War II. In addition, the Club Carnival (tournament) saw 88 teams from all 5 Australian states as well as 4 overseas countries, France, Zambia, Holland & Norway. Close to 40,000 fans were out to cheer on the competitors.

The World Cup was organized by Les Fraser and his Warwick club for the 2nd time. The 8 fields on the grounds are dedicated to the sport of Polocrosse with covered pens for over 300 horses as well as open pens for hundreds more. The 8 playing fields were irrigated and groomed to perfection, and the grounds, clubhouse and bar were staffed by the local Warwick club. 

Although the Canadians didn't win a game in round robin play against South Africa, New Zealand, Ireland or Zimbabwe, the experience was worth a lot. “To see the level of competition, the speed that the plays develop, and the skill of the horses and players is something you have to experience in person to appreciate. It was as exciting to watch as the best of hockey, rodeo or chuck wagon racing - fast action and highly skilled players combining horsemanship, strategy and racquet skills”, said Al Hicks, Canadian team member.

“With only a small group of experienced players competing in Canada, our country doesn't see competition like this. Most of the teams in Australia play every weekend during their 6-8 month season at Carnivals hosting an average of 40-50 teams. Kids in Australia are playing with a racquet from the time they can walk; the sub-juniors (under 12) play at an impressive level, and by the time they reach juniors they have developed a great deal of skills in horsemanship & ball handling. Canadians only dream about that level of participation and dedication.”

The highlight game of the tournament was between South Africa and Australia in the semi finals. South Africa came within a goal of tying the game with 2 chukkas to go, and in the 7th chukka the teams exchanged the lead. But in the final chukka the Australians really played their game; Aaron Clarke dropped back to the number 2 position and snatched 4 consecutive balls out of the line up and passed them into their goal scorer, Troy Henry to pull ahead moving the score to 24-19 and put them into the finals against the UK.

Best division 1 players were Aaron Clark and Suzette Lister of Australia. Jossie Stafford of South Africa and Shane Hill of New Zealand won best player in division 2, while Kristen Dodd & Howie Baker of Zimbabwe won best player for division 3.

The sport differs from polo in that it is played on a field 1/4 of the size and played with a racquet similar to a lacrosse stick and sponge rubber ball.  3 players and horses from each 6 member team alternate on field to compete in four 8 minute chukkas. But the biggest difference is that players are only allowed one horse for a weekend tournament, which means conserving your horse for the final on Sunday afternoon.

Team Canada consisted of Lesley Plant from Calgary, Jacquie and Sean McArthur of Okotoks, Kayla & Allen Hicks from Millarville, Kris Miller of Blackie, Pam Bergen of Aldersyde, Bruce Greenslade of Canyon Leigh, Australia and Coaches Sarah and Charlie Grills of Holbrook, Australia. Participating in the Australian Club Carnival were Canadians Renee & Susan Hicks of Millarville and Dave Carnell of Black Diamond.

On the world front of Polocrosse, Peter Crawford the President of the International Polocrosse Council (IPC) announced that the United Kingdom would be hosting the 2011 World Cup. Ireland has offered to help supply horses for the event but with the possibility of five new countries joining the IPC (Zambia, France, Norway, Germany and the Netherlands) the number of horses required has increased substantially. With so many contenders some qualifying tournaments may be required for 2011. The IPC also voted in a new president, Wessel Strauss of South Africa.

If you would like to find out more about Polocrosse visit www.polocrossecanada.com or call Pam at 938-4946 or Susan at 931-3610. Polocrosse kicks off its season in June.

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