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Passion for polocrosse prompts couple to travel almost 12,000km over season to play

Kemii Maguire, Monday August 26, 2019 - 16:06 EST
Audience submitted image
Polocrosse is growing as a competitive sport, with more than 4,500 players nationwide. - Audience submitted

Outback Queensland has a love for cattle sports like rodeo and campdrafting, but polocrosse is emerging as a welcome distraction for people doing it hard through the drought.

For Luke and Mary-Anne McNeven, who are juggling a newborn and running 3,000 head of cattle, participating in the sport takes serious dedication.

From their remote cattle station near McKinlay in north-west Queensland, they travelled close to 12,000 kilometres to play over the season — averaging a two-day, 1,700km journey for each competition.

Polocrosse is a team sport played on horseback, with each rider using a racquet to pick up and throw balls between the opposing team's goal posts.

"Around here, no-one's seen it or had anything to do with it," Mr McNeven said.

"When I talk about racqueting someone or pushing someone off their line, they just look at me funny."

The McNevens are members of the Lower Burdekin polocrosse team near Giru.

"The team all live pretty close together near Townsville — and then there's us 760 kilometres away from them."

"We're the ring-ins, like a rent-a-crowd."

The furthest they've travelled to play was a wet and windy 2,210km round trip to the Pyramid Norweld Cup, where Lower Burdekin won the B-grade title.

Training can also be a struggle during the off season, with the nearest polocrosse pitch 734km away.

"The way it has been, I just do trots in the afternoon if the sun is still up," said Mr McNeven, who five years ago moved away from cattle sports to return to his polocrosse roots.

"This will absolutely be something that I do for the next five years."

A relief from drought

Polocrosse is growing as a competitive sport, with 250 clubs and more than 4,500 players nationwide.

Mr McNeven said he wanted to see more outback players, especially with western Queensland's rich history in the sport.

"It used to be huge out here. When I was a kid, they had two or three teams at least," he said.

"Eventually campdrafting took over, so it slowly died out over the west."

Polocrosse Queensland state administrator VJ Boland said team sports like polocrosse could be a beneficial social gathering for cattle producers struggling with droughted land.

"With the climate the way it is, things are tough," she said.

"To go for a weekend with a whole lot of like-minded people, camp, catch up and have a good time, is something that is needed in times like this."

To introduce new players and welcome back old ones, Polocrosse Australia recently began touring workshops.

Much like Mr McNeven, polocrosse riders generally come from an array of equestrian disciplines.

"We've got people who used to be hack riders, dressage riders, even campdraft like Luke," Ms Boland said.

"My young son, who was in pony club, joined the polocrosse team last weekend — even we made the change.

"It's the same as campdrafting, penning — you just need one horse."

In the meantime, the McNevens are hoping their 19-month-old daughter will keep polocrosse alive for Colwell station.

"She's pretty keen to have a play — monkey see, monkey do," Mr McNeven said.


© ABC 2019

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