The first weekend of July this year will see hundreds of people converge on Bradley Park just outside of Rutherford to compete in this years Maitland Polocrosse Carnival.
This year’s carnival coincides with the Maitland Polocrosse Club’s 60th anniversary and Bunnan, Cassilis, Muswellbrook, Central Coast and Gulgong clubs (just to name a few) will make the trip.
As one of the oldest continuously operating polocrosse clubs in the world, Maitland has been at the centre of the development of the sport in the Hunter and beyond.
The club has 54 current members with hundreds more once representing in the royal blue and white strip of the club.
Maitland Club president Peter Kesby said the club had a proud tradition of sportsmanship, playing skill, excellent horsemanship and a culture of helping new players find their feet in the fast paced, exciting sport .
The club has been based at Bradley Park on the outskirts of Maitland since the early 1960’s.
Polocrosse, an Australian sport which combines the horsemanship of polo with the racquet work of lacrosse, was developed by Edward Hirst and his wife in Sydney in 1938.
It was inspired by a practice version of polo they saw being played in England around that time that involved the mallet head of a polo stick being removed and a squash racquet head being attached for use in a small sand arena.
The competition itself is very family oriented, with clubs often seeing father and son, mother and daughter, and sometimes even three generations competing together in the same team.
Kesby, remembers playing with his son and daughter years ago, something he says just isn’t an option in a lot of other horse sports.
“It’s such a family sport, you see two and three generations of the one family, travelling to carnivals, camping and playing together for years at a time,” Kesby said.
“It’s why we see people continuing with the sport long after other options fall by the wayside”
Founding Maitland Club member and long-time representative player Joy Poole she stumbled across the sport in 1956 when a pony club friend invited her along.
“I didn’t know much about polocrosse other than what I had read in the Hoofs and Horns but it seemed like it should be good as it involved horses and playing a game, the two things I was passionate about.”
From there she didn’t look back, playing from 1956 to 2001, she represented NSW more than 30 times and was awarded the OAM for services to polocrosse as a player, coach and umpire.
Peter Kesby attributes the longevity of the club to the wisdom of purchasing Bradley Park many years ago and the ongoing support from playing and social members alike, especially around carnival time.
I didn’t know much about polocrosse other than what I had read in the Hoofs and Horns but it seemed like it should be good as it involved horses and playing a game, the two things I was passionate about.”
He is also quick to acknowledge the continued support from the club’s sponsors without whom, the club would struggle to hold a carnival and continue the traditions of Maitland club.
Sponsors include Farmers Warehouse, Kirkwoods Produce, Bloomfield Collieries, Neath Hotel and Bowe & Lidbury, Saddleworld, Kurri Pet & Produce and Arakoola Australian Stock Horse Stud.
Bennett Polocrosse racquets also attend every carnival, often donating a racquet for the prize pool.
Leanne Polglasse, who has been playing polocrosse for the Maitland club for 27 years, said the sport offered you lifetime membership to a great community of people.
“What I love about polocrosse is the people I have met and played with throughout those years, starting from sub-juniors right through to playing at nationals,” she said.
“You also can’t beat the feeling of playing a young horse that you have spent hour after hour educating and then see your hard work really pay off when you get out on the field”.
Maitland Polocrosse carnival is on at Bradley Park, Anambah Road, Aberglasslyn on the July 1-2. Entry is free and the action fast paced.