Report on Polocrosse – Squack Whaley – June 17, 2009
Firstly it is a fact that our polocrosse numbers during isolation 1980-1992 were high.1985 was 782 and 1990 was 743. The 2009 list, which is on the Internet, indicates 491 members. This reflects a 35 % decrease.
Next fact is that the SA Men’s A team beat a very strong Zim Men’s A 2-1 in their first test series post-isolation in 1992 at Pietermaritzberg and Inanda. They did this with shallow net racquets, polo “easy out” saddles and an assortment of protective headgear from polo helmets to pith helmets. During the same period of isolation Zimbabwe was enjoying their new freedom by touring Australia 1983,1987 and sending a section in 1988 to the bicentennial test series verses Australia. Touring New Zealand in 1992. Hosting Australia in 1985 and New Zealand in 1989 as well as sending their youngsters on exchange trips.
If 1992 was a fluke then Zim were in for a surprise when 1994 the SA Men’s a toured Zim and whitewashed them 3-0 in their own backyard. This was not a poor Zim team .The bulk of it would go onto to win the World Series in Pietermaritzberg 1997 and win it without losing a game. They played SA, NZ and AUS twice each.
So going on the above facts I am not convinced that isolation was such a bad thing. Numbers were high and competion was strong. Which leads to the point of tours. 17 years post isolation we have toured every corner of the polocrosse globe and in turn hosted every nation in one form or another. I think it is safe to say there is no mystery “out there” anymore. There is a balance between no tours and too many tours. Lately we sway towards the latter. Does this affect local polocrosse? I’m sure it does one way or the other and should be discussed at an appropriate forum. Touring costs a lot of money .If you got the Australian Men’s team to play the SA Men’s team in South Africa you would draw a big crowd .I played in the 1992 test matches and there were big crowds especially at Inanda. If you have crowd of 3000 people paying a R50 entry fee you raise R150 000. Watching SA play Ireland, New Zealand or USA does not overly excite the SA polocrosse publics. Fact I was there and did not see many spectators. If you tour, the SA public don’t get to see the match. If you lose then Mr. Polocrosse supporter says he/she did not see it yet paid a contribution to it and gets grumpy. If you present him/her with a weak test match they lose interest. They want to see the heavyweights slug it out. When did we last have a heavyweight test match in South Africa that got people excited? When was the last time South Africa was beaten on home soil? 1997 Quadrangular Series. So we have not been beaten in twelve years on home soil. We are good but hang on if we are that good then how come we have been to Australia 3 times in the last 6 years and returned on every trip empty handed (and “broke”). We are putting our players under massive financial pressure. You promise a young man or lady to tour and represent their country it is very difficult for them to turn it down and yet they are trying to get ahead financially for their future .You must ask the question has this favoured Australia or us? We need to find a balance.
With regards to “super” teams this will not go away until a new structure is put in place. In the mid to late 80’s the Inanda team was the Transvaal team and dominated SA polocrosse but it was ok because they all lived in Joburg. Below is the 1989 SA Club Champs a division draw held at Shongweni clearly indicating one very strong team in their own league. No prizes for guessing that won 1989 SA champ. Do you notice the 10-goal player? At the end of each decade we produce a 10 goaler and that creates a buzz. End of the 70’s Norman Crookes , 80’s John Mansfield , 90’s Charl Du Plessis , end of the 00’s ??????
When a polocrosse player finishes a weekend he/she asks themselves. Were the facilities comfortable for horse and player and did I play some good competitive polocrosse . No one wants to be thrashed or have an easy ride .