History of Polocrosse

In 1938 the sport developed from a combination of polo, lacrosse and netball.  It is credited as being one of only three truly Australian sports – the other two being Australian Rules Football and Camp drafting.

Originally two riding instructors at Britain’s National School of Equitation created an indoor exercise to supplement the work at the riding school.  It was designed to make the young riders take better charge of their horses and on a visit to England, Sydney horse breeders Mr and Mrs Edward Hirst saw the activity. On their return to Australia, and with the help of an experienced horseman and polo player, Mr Alf Pitty, the Hirsts created the game of Polocrosse in Australia.

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Polocrosse is an outdoor team sport played on horseback by both men and women. Each rider uses a cane stick, made up of a polo-stick shaft with a squash racquet type head with a knotted thread net in which the ball is caught and carried.  The ball is made of thick-skinned sponge rubber and is 100mm -130mm in diameter.

Players pick up the ball from the ground, pass the ball, bounce the ball and carry the ball endeavouring to take it into their scoring area to throw a goal.
A team consists of six players, divided into two sections of three.  These sections play alternate chukkas of six to eight minutes each, with normally four chukkas comprising a match, although at times up to eight chukkas are played.  The three players in each section are numbered – No. 1 is the attack, or goal scorer, No. 2 is the centre, and No. 3 is the defence. 

The playing field is 146.5 m long and 55m wide, with goal posts at each end.
Horses are generally up to 15.2 hands. Australian Stock Horses and thoroughbreds are commonly used. The game requires the horse to be able to stop and turn extremely fast, to accelerate quickly, to have stamina and to push and ride-off other horses.
A high priority has always been given to the safety of both horses and players and this is ensured through a well organised system of umpiring.

Polocrosse was intended to be a game which allowed the inexpensive enjoyment of one’s horse, hence the rule of one horse – one player and the playing of alternate chukkas. Polocrosse is unique in its involvement of the whole family. Children start playing from as young as 6 years, and there are many players who are in their 60’s – so it is not uncommon to have children, parents and grandparents playing, and to have brothers, sisters, Mums and Dads all in the one team! In this way polocrosse becomes a shared passion of the whole family.

The sport took a leap forward in 1976 when the International Polocrosse Council was established by Mr Max Walters AM, MBE.  Today the sport is played worldwide. The most significant milestone has been the staging of the Polocrosse World Cup : Australia, Canada, England, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, USA and Zimbabwe all take to the field vying for supremacy.Australia won the first two World Cups held in 2003 and 2007 at Morgan Park, Warwick in Queensland, Australia and in 2011 South africa took out the title played in Rugby in the United Kingdom. 2015 will see South Africa hosting this event at Mooi River.

The early history of this spectacular game is superbly chronicled in a hard cover publication by Sally Batton Boillotat, entitled: “Polocrosse Australian Made, Internationally Played”. It is available from the QPA Office.