Posted by Linda Mantova on 23 March 2012 News
Polocrosse is very much a family affair where Paul and Sally McGrath are concerned.
The two experienced players will don their maroon uniforms once again for Queensland at the 2012 Barastoc Polocrosse Nationals being held in Warwick next month.
However, there won’t be the long road trip or weeks away from home they are used to when they have been selected to play for their state in previous years.
This time around, the family will only have a half hour trip down the road to Warwick to play at the Nationals being held from April 23 to 29.
Both members of the Warwick Polocrosse Club, Paul and Sally McGrath, have notched up 20 Polocrosse Nationals between them, and both have again been selected to play for Queensland at the upcoming championships being held at Warwick’s Morgan Park complex.
With their two daughters, Keely and Jordan, who are also keen polocrosse players, both competing as juniors for the Warwick Club, the family will be spending plenty of time concentrating on polocrosse over the next six weeks.
Already, both Sally and Paul, who live and work on the 210 hectare “Darlington Stud”, at Greenmount, on the Darling Downs, have had their polocrosse horses in work for close to 12 weeks, getting them “in” a week before Christmas.
They are both seasoned campaigners when it comes to the physical horse sport. Both have represented Australia in polocrosse, with Paul playing in 1994 in a Men’s test series, and Sally touring New Zealand in 2002 in an Australian Women’s side, as well as playing at the World Cup in 2003.
Paul started playing for the Gold Coast Club at the age of 13, and has since been a member of both the Toowoomba and Cunningham clubs until he joined Warwick in 1987.
His first Nationals selection was as a reserve for the Queensland junior side in 1980 when the championships were held in Capel, Western Australia.
“I never got to play at those Nationals when I was 15, and they had no intermediate (Under 21) competition back then, so I went straight into the Open mens competition out of juniors,” Paul said.
He had to wait another ten years for selection, but he recalls the first Nationals he played at in Launceston, Tasmania, in 1990.
“I was in the Open mens team and we got a flogging. We had a young section and a more experienced section, but never made the finals,” Paul said.
“In 1992, I was in the Queensland mixed team and we were beaten by New South Wales by one goal in the finals at Forbes,” he said.
“At the Nationals in Walkaway, Western Australia, in 1994, we didn’t do any good either. However, my fondest memories are of our bus trip across the Nullarbor.
“There were 11 of us on a 15 seater mini bus. Everything was fine on the way across, but on the way back everyone was tired and cranky – never again,” he laughed.
At the 1996 Nationals at Werribee, Victoria, Paul recalls the muddy and cold conditions, which were made worse when they were defeated by NSW again, in the Open Men’s final.
However, in 1998, at his home Nationals in Warwick, the Queensland men redeemed themselves winning the Open Mens title in front of a home crowd.
Paul was also selected for the Nationals in Naracoorte, South Australia, in 2000, but had to withdraw a week before due to his horse injuring its tendon.
Then in 2002, Paul was selected to play at Darwin in the Northern Territory, but unfortunately again had to withdraw.
He then went onto play in every other Nationals up until 2008, and in 2010 at the Ballarat Nationals he coached the Open Men’s side.
However, he is back this year, well horsed on an eight year old mare, Kildare Belle, owned by Charlie Brook, and is rearing to go as captain of the Queensland Open Mens side.
“This is the best chance (of winning) we’ve had in a while. I’m really looking forward to playing. It will be a great Nationals,” Paul said.
“I have some fantastic memories from my years in polocrosse. The highlight has been the people we’ve met and it has taken us all around Australia.”
Sally agrees wholeheartedly, and after meeting Paul and marrying in 1996, they have experienced much success on the polocrosse fields around the country.
However, Sally’s polocrosse career began long before she met Paul. At the age of eight, she had her first game of polocrosse for the Richmond Polocrosse Club in north western Queensland.
From there, she played for the Flinders Club at Hughenden until she was 17 years old.
“I came down to Warwick in 1986, and was first selected to play at a Nationals in 1988 at Darwin,” Sally said.
“I was 19 years old and in the Open Women’s team. Back then they were only six member teams and only two day carnivals. Nowadays it’s a lot more intense.”
Sally has been selected for Queensland at every Nationals since, except Perth in 2008 when she suffered a facial injury just a month before the team was to depart.
But anyone who plays the game or has watched it, would agree that it is not for the faint hearted.
Sally is also looking forward to the Warwick Nationals, and believes her Open Mixed team are “a good chance” to take out this year’s title.
“I’m really happy to have been selected on my six year old gelding, Haydon Apollo, who only had his first season of polocrosse last year,” she said.