The Article below has been taken from www.polocrosse.net and has been written by Kenrick Riley. It makes some interesting points and is well worth reading. To see it in its original form click here .
POLOCROSSE – THE EQUITY OF DEFENCE
PURPOSE: To conduct an experimental game designed to make polocrosse more enjoyable.
SUMMARY: An increasing complaint about modern polocrosse is that it is boring. Too many goals. Not enough defence. A repetition of “line-out, goal, line-out, goal”. Too much like basketball.
When the game was invented, its key technology was the squash racquet head with a shallow, knitted net. This was a heavy piece of equipment with a low level of accuracy and throwing distance. In addition, when a racquet was hit, the ball invariably fell out.
Accordingly, the goal posts were set at eight-feet apart to recognise the difficulty of throwing a ball from outside the semi-circle with any degree of success while under pressure from the defence.
A goal was a rare event celebrated with applause. Often the shot was missed and a second phase of play began with the No 3 throwing from the penalty line (30-yard-line) without requiring a centre-field lineout. This allowed another important area of contest for the ball (the secret for spectator excitement).
When the Curtis Family and others began to invent deep nets and lighter frames, players developed new levels of accuracy, distance and speed when throwing with the racquet – plus far greater ball security when under attack.
However, the game has overlooked how this improved technology affected polocrosse and its enjoyment by the public. The new technology fitted within the rules and players enjoyed the new freedom it provided – so there seemed no reason for policy change.
As younger generations mastered the technology, ball security and accuracy improved even further. Eventually, players found they could throw a legal, accurate pass from almost any direction. This meant less dropped ball, more goals, more lineouts and less re-starts from the penalty line.
It is now common for a No 1 to throw a goal while riding away from the posts. This is not new. Paul McIntyre startled the crowd when he successfully attempted it during a carnival at Narromine in 1976 using a Curtis racquet. Until that point, his opposing No 3 was equal to the contest.
Since then, the No 3’s ability to provide equitable defence has declined. No 1s have used the technology’s benefits to retain the ball and throw more goals from increasingly shallow angles.
But there was no matching policy to improve defence. Hence the saying: “An average No 1 will beat a good No 3 most of the time.” That was not always the case – and was not the intention of the game’s developers.
The lack of defence ruins spectator enjoyment. Watchers can appreciate only so many spectacular goals “running away from the posts” before it becomes repetitive. In addition, the game has become two-dimensional. With the lack of missed goals, play now cycles from the centre-field lineout to the goalposts and back again – with little second-phase play at the penalty line.
The runaway scorelines also make for boring polocrosse. The dominance of the No 1 in the area turns a game designed to be relatively close into one where a side can lead by 20 goals after just four chukkas. Yet soccer needs only three goals in 80 minutes to be exciting – due to the contest for the ball and the equity of defence.
The lack of second-phase play at the penalty line takes away an enjoyable contest which traditionally brought the No 2 into the game – in both attack and defence. This part of the game has declined so much that most coaches would not bother designing strategies for it.
In addition, the lack of defence has changed the fitness and strength requirements of horses. In a more free-flowing game with less stoppage for lineouts, a very fit player with a very fit horse would eventually gain an appropriate advantage.
The game requires policy changes in the areas of technology or playing rules to improve its enjoyment.
Commercial reality may negate any reversal of racquet technology – although the game’s administrators could adopt approval systems similar to cricket in regard to new racquets or nets.
Therefore, rules changes would involve play or field layout – or a combination of both. These would need to be debated and played experimentally before adoption.
Some possibilities might include:
Narrow the goal posts: For 70 years, the goal posts have remained at 8 feet despite the vast improvement in racquet accuracy. That width could be halved to see what change it makes to the defence. If required, it could be further reduced during an experimental game to find at what width the level of defence rises to equity. This would impair the curled shot from the baseline and require No 1s to beat their defence in front of the posts.
Take away a goal post: Considering most No 1s could confidently hit a single post from the 10 metre semi-circle, it should be trialed. One goal post would still allow the shot from the baseline. Goal wavers would judge if the post was “hit”. Only one goalie would be needed. Invention might allow for a cup on top of the single post to hold a spare ball which must fall on suitable contact – like a bail off a cricket stump. The post would still need to be high enough to hit when throwing over the No 3’s head to stop the defence standing in front of it. Alternatively, a second, smaller semi-circle could be drawn which the No 3 must stay outside of.
Increase the 10-metre semi-circle: This increases the distance from which a No 1 can shoot. Considering the No 3 rarely takes the ball off the No 1 in the area, this would improve their chance of disrupting the shot at goal. It also reduces the working area a No 1 can use to beat the No 3.
Abolish the centre-field lineout: After a goal, play could re-start from the penalty line with the opposing No 3. This alternates possession and advantage – and would keep the contest closer. The lineout could be retained for use whenever the scores are levelled. Nowadays, with little second-phase play after missed goals, the lineout is the only equitable “contest for the ball” seen by spectators. But it is a messy part of polocrosse visually, fraught with swinging infringements, and an area where players and umpires clash within earshot of spectators.
Abolish the pass into the area: The No 1 would need to receive the ball before entering the area and bounce across the penalty line to gain access. This allows the No 2 to play a greater defensive role and requires the No 1 to work harder for possession in the area. It would reduce collisions on the penalty line and introduce a greater degree of uncertainty with bouncing the ball. No 3s would still be able to throw out of the area.
Abolish the bounce out of the area: Initially, when the game was devised, the No 3 generally passed out of the area for security. With better racquets and better fields, No 3s now usually retain possession of the ball by bouncing out of the area. They then keep the ball all the way to the other end of the field. Requiring a No 3 to pass out of the area opens up the contest for the ball, creates a higher degree of uncertainty and greater involvement of No 2s in second-phase play.
That a group of players/officials discuss the various options above – and any new ones – to improve the level of defence and spectator enjoyment of polocrosse.
That a club conduct an experimental match using some of the preferred options. This match could be a curtain-raiser to a major game – or a Friday night entertainment. Spectators could be given a questionnaire seeking their comments on the various options trailed during the match.
That the results of the match and the spectator survey be provided to polocrosse administrators for further consideration and action.
Increasingly, the spectators at polocrosse are other players or their associates – not the general public. There needs to be more defence, less goals and greater variety in play to keep non-playing spectators interested for four chukkas.
Improvements in technology must be recognised and encouraged – but their impact must be assessed and appropriate policy changes made to ensure those improvements do not spoil a wonderful Australian game.
Although change should never be adopted frivolously, nor should it be ignored. Conducting an experimental game to assess the benefits of change provides useful information without forcing the game to make policy decisions beforehand. In fact, experimental games may need to be conducted regularly to ensure the game remains popular.
I trust such an experimental game will be played soon for the benefit of all.
Kenrick Riley, “Wiccawood”, GEORGICA NSW 2480
(02) 6688 8163.
There are some interesting points in this article about how to give defenders a better chance. I’m not sure about the idea of only having one goal post as I struggle to put the ball between two a lot of the time but I do think the idea of narrowing them is worth considering.
The idea of giving the ball to the number 3 after the number one scores is an interesting one. It would stop the situation where a number 3 on a good horse can pick up the ball out the back everytime, when all his team mates simply racket their opposition (though this way of winning the ball is, in itself, a skill). This could also be unfair to teams and players who are very good in line outs though and do win a high proportion of catches in the line outs. It would perhaps, however, lead to a greater proportion of mid field action as teams figfht to win back posession after they have scored a goal.
Another idea, I personally can think of (though I’m not sure its that good) is allowing the defensive number 2 into the goalscoring area to help defend so that the number one has to contend to with two players in order to score. This could lead to a couple of different situations:
1) One player simply acts as a goal keeper while another player hunts the ball. This might not really work, if a number 1 can get round the defensive player they can probably expect 90% of the time to put it over the head or between the legs of the goal keeper. It might reduce the number of goals slightly but ultimately might not make that much difference, people will simply opt for high shots.
2) Both defensive players might hunt the ball. However, as there are two of them they will be able to hunt a lot more effectively and you would see the number one lose the ball a lot more. This might actually happen far too much though and there would be far too few goals as the number 1 will find themselves being harassed the whole time and having to opt for quick shots from difficult angles (which might make the game more exciting).
It would also mean that the attacking team would have to trap two opposition players in order to give their number 1 free run at goal.
Alternatively, both number twos could be allowed into the goal scoring area so that it is an even two on two contest, this would mean that the defenders could harass the number one if the attacking number two doesn’t do their job correctly.
These ideas would perhaps give number 2’s a bigger role in the games. A good number 2 can be the key to a polocrosse match already but it is described as the ‘easiest role to play but the hardest role to play well’ for a reason. So often number 2’s fail to contribute a great deal for the whole match.
There are obvious problems with these ideas ( I don’t know who comes up with them!):
Firstly, is it really in the spirit of polocrosse to allow more than two players in the goal scoring areas? It would only be one more step to allowing all players everywhere on the pitch and getting rid of lines completely!
Secondly, the goal scoring areas would probably have to grow to accomodate more players at any one time (perhaps not a bad thing as often large sections of the middle area are hardly used).
Thirdly, (if both number two’s where allowed in) can only the number one still score or could the attacking number two also score?