THE ART OF POLO
Polo is a team sport and each team consists of 4 players on horseback. The objective is to score points by hitting a ball with a mallet between opposing goalposts. After a goal is scored, the direction of play is reversed. The game is usually played in 4, 5 or 6 chukkas which are 7 minutes in duration (actual time). Each player has a handicap (as in golf), the sum of the handicap is the handicap of a 4 player team. Tournaments are usually held over 2 days with finals on a Sunday. Players need to be associated with a club but do not have to play for the same club or team throughout the polo season.
On a full sized grass field, each polo team has four people. In an enclosed arena usually played in Autumn and Spring, each team has four people.
The ground is 300 yards long, 160 yards wide if boarded. Being boarded means the field has a 12 inch upright board bounding the perimeter which stops the ball rolling out of play easily. If the ground is unboarded, it is 200 yards wide and marked with a white line. The goal posts, positioned at each end, are 8 yards apart.
Duration of the Play
The full game rules allow for 8 chukkas, but often in club matches 4 or 6 chukkas are played. Each chukka is timed to last 7 mins, then a bell is rung, but the game goes on until the ball goes out of play, or for another 30 secs when the bell is rung again, the chukka ends where the ball is. The clock is stopped between the umpire's whistle to stop the play and the whistle to start play (e.g. ball out of play, foul etc.) There are intervals of 3 mins between chukkas and 5 mins at half time. Ends are changed at every goal scored - this has been found fairest when there is a wind.
Each polo player is handicapped (on a 4-6 chukka basis) from -2 up to 10 goals (the top professional players). The aggregate handicap of the four players in a team is the team handicap. e.g. if all players have a handicap of 2 goals each, the team handicap is 8 goals and is referred to as an '8 goal team'. In handicap polo tournaments , if both teams do not have an equal aggregate handicap, one team is given a number of goals start which is calculated as follows: the number of goals start is obtained by multiplying the difference between the two teams' handicaps by the number of chukkas and dividing by 6, any fraction counting a half a goal.
Ponies can play two chukkas in an afternoon with a rest of at least one chukka in between. There is no limit to the height of ponies.
A player following the ball on its exact line has the ‘Right of Way’ over all other players. Any other player who crosses the player on the right of way close enough to be dangerous commits a foul. Penalties vary according to the degree of danger and closeness of the cross. No player may hook an opponent's stick unless he is on the same side of the opponent's pony as the ball. Dangerous play or rough handling is not allowed - a player may ride an opponent off, but must not charge in at an angle.
The following penalties may be given. A goal is given if the cross is dangerous or deliberate in the vicinity of the goal. The ball is then thrown in 10 yds in front of the goal without ends being changed. Free hit from 30 yds opposite the centre of the goal - defenders to be behind the back line and outside th6 goal posts but must not ride through when the ball is hit. Free hit from 40 yds, same conditions as b). Free hit from 60 yds. Defenders to be 30 yds from ball. Free hit from the centre of the ground, none of the defending side to be nearer than 30 yds when the ball is hit. Free hit from spot where the foul took place, no defender to be nearer than 30 yds Corners are not taken as in Association Football - instead, a free hit is given 60 yds from the goal from a spot opposite where the ball was hit behind the line, none of the defending side to be nearer than 30 yds.
Captains of teams are the only players who can discuss questions arising during a game. No player shall appeal in any manner to the Umpire for fouls, but the Captain can discuss any matter with the Umpire.
The History of Polo - Australia
The New South Wales Polo Association (NSWPA) was formed in 1892, the same year as Banjo Paterson composed his famous poem, The Geebung Polo Club. Prior to this, the first known polo in Australia is recorded as being played on 15th August 1874 at Moore Park in Sydney. From 1890 - 1909 polo was played at Rosehill Racecourse.
By 1910 polo was played by the Sydney Polo Club, the first polo club in the southern hemisphere, on a single field at Kensington Racecourse which is now the site of the University of New South Wales. That same year, the State Championships was established following the gift of the Countess of Dudley Cup and played at Kensington until 1934. From 1934 the Countess of Dudley Cup moved to the Kyeemagh ground where 2 fields had been laid out for the Town and Country Polo Club and was played there until 1939. Polo was suspended for the duration of the Second World War. The Kyeemagh ground, which was located almost under the current international runway of Kingsford Smith Airport, was resumed in 1947 for airport expansion and the re-routing southwards of Cooks River.
As there was no city venue available to the NSWPA after the war, the Dudley Cup was played at Forbes in 1948 and was then played at Maitland and Goulburn until 1956 when a field was built in the centre of the track at Warwick Farm Racecourse. Warwick Farm became the main base for the Association to conduct the Countess of Dudley Cup, the Hector King cup 10 goal Championship and International matches. However eventually the high cost of maintaining two fields used only a few times each year caused the Association to stop play at this venue. Since then, the Association's tournaments have been held mostly by Windsor Polo Club at their Richmond grounds.
The last Test match played at Warwick Farm was in 2001 with tests since played at Windsor Polo Club. Today, polo is played in 5 States in Australia: NSW, QLD, SA, VIC & WA. There are approximately 50 Clubs throughout Australia, each affiliated to their State Polo Association.