This weekend is the UKPA National Championships, the main event in the UKPA calendar and polocrosse players and fans in the UK have been gradually getting more and more excited all week. It is always hard to know who will win what at Nationals, especially seeing no one, except the UKPA, knows who is definitely in each grade until about Thursday. However, with a little bit of work it is possible to make some educated guesses.
In the A grade the teams are the most predictable. There will definitely be teams from Highlanders (probably two teams), Kent and Arden. The Highlanders top team will undoubtedly be favourites. They are packed with home grown talent (nearly all their top team featured for the UK against South Africa earlier this year) and they have won three times in the last four years and victory this year would give their captain, Guy Robertson, and some of their other players five Nationals A grade titles in six years (those players won one title with Pennine in 2004). However, both Kent and Arden have taken tournaments off them this year and both will not go down without a fight. Kent have the brilliant Jason Webb in their team, himself a five times National’s A grade winner, and the Australian duo, Islay Young and Chris Dunlop, while Arden also have a lot of UK players, such as Hamish Michael and Sophie Lodder, but both teams lack the horsepower that the Highlanders have at their disposal and ultimately this could prove very decisive.
In the B grade it has been the teams of Kent and Pennine who have had an excellent season and it may well be a smart move to place money on these two clubs making the final. Kent have been combining some of their younger players with experienced players all season, while Pennine’s side has consisted entirely of youngsters so expect to see a lot of the UK’s up and coming players in the B grade.
The C grade really will be too close to call but judging by the results this season expect to see strong teams from Kent and Pennine again and also from clubs such as Vale Impi, Arden, Solent and Ashfields. The D and E grades have been the stomping ground of Solent and Vale Impi this year but again the big three clubs of Kent, Pennine and Arden could feature. Also it might well be worth while looking at Celyn in the D grade and Ashfields in the E grade.
The Juniors and Primary Juniors grade has been mainly to domainated by Pennine, Arden and White Horse this year and it seems quite likely that the Nationals titles will go to one of those clubs.
Predicting results is a tricky task, however, what was made a lot easier this week was predicting the UKPA’s desire to push polocrosse forwards during the off-season. UKPA Sport Development Officer, Iain Heaton, made it very clear to Polocrosse Extreme that polocrosse in the UK must not grind to a halt after the Nationals, as often seems to be the case. In an exclusive interview, (editor’s note: we think because we are the only ones willing to listen to him) he said that the UK polocrosse community must use the off-season to grow the sport and that he, and the rest of the UKPA executive, was currently working on various plans to make this happen but these plans rely on the help and support of the membership.
He promised to expand on these plans further soon but did remind us of the recently launched UKPA stick amnesty (read the details here) and also that in September the members of the UK under 21s and Junior squads would be doing polocrosse demos for four days at Blenheim horse trials and at the end of September that the recent UK versus South Africa test match series will be shown on Sky Sports and the Country Channel. He stated that these events will generate interest in the sport and the UKPA was doing all it could to be ready to make the most of this interest.