By Terrance Keith, Bombers Equestrian Equipment

Things got off to a start on the Wednesday – well, actually preparations for the open got off to a start long before the Wednesday but proceedings for the annual Zim Open 2009 got underway on Wednesday the 9th of September with the meet and greet black tie ball, the traditional gathering of all the players, managers, sponsors, interested spectators and family, as well as honoured guests and the few friends looking for a good party.

The setting this year was spectacular. The ball was held at the venue as usual, however, this year they had stepped it up a notch, as they always do, and we were treated to a fantastic array of drapes and lighting surrounding the main seating area. The tables were covered in flowers and confetti and it definitely was a world class event, especially for the polocrosse community.

The bidding process started with the B pool. Bidding is done in order to gain 1st, 2nd or 3rd pick and 1st pick in the B pool went to the Progroup team which consisted of Sophie Lodder (UK) Graham Keith (Zim), Brad Mallet (conf SA\Zim ) Gary Parham (Zim) Dan Duhig (UK) Dale Scott(Zim) and from their first bid they chose Francis Dodd. Second bid went to the High Voltage team – Jonjon Rutherford (conf SA\Zim), Craig Mannix (Zim), Lucas Holtzhausen (Zim) Brian Wright (Zim) Steven Kane (SA) Gordon Shaw (SA) and they chose as their pick Arlene Crookes. Third bid went to Alcredo they consisted of Steven Gardini (Zim), Skye Bradford (Aus), Ian Taylor (Zim) Bosse Joubert (Zim) Hamish Micheal (UK) , Lynton Bauer (SA) and their 3rd pick was for Nikki Hopgood. The final team was Kelly Redford (conf Zim\SA), Lee-Anne Van Wyk (SA), Audrey Logan (Zim), Stacey Logan (Zim), Nicky Crooke (SA) and their wildcard was Alison van Heerden (Zim)

This lead to the A pool bidding and first bid went to Koala park team which was Danie Swan (Zim) Micheal Krynaw (Zim), Brad Clark (Zim), Chris Andserson (Aus), Troy Henry (Aus), Shane Hill (NZ), and their pick was for Lance Anderson (Aus). Second pick was won by the Renaissance team of Andy Baker (Zim) Brendon Leschinski (SA), Squaky Whaley (SA), Andrew Heynes (SA), Jason Webb (UK) Travis Timm (SA) and their pick was for Beau Moore (Aus). 3rd pick went to the Millers team of Howy Baker (Zim) Nico Van Wyk (SA) Attie Van Wyk (SA), Abbott Grills (Aus), Gysie Bonzaaier (SA) Chavonne Cooper (SA) and their pick was for Guy Robertson (UK). The final team was Capicol which was Jannie Steenkamp (SA) Damien Harris (SA), Charl Duplessis (SA) Graham Maclarty (SA), Bruce Maclarty (SA) Gavin Cocker (SA) and their wild card was Greg Sergeant (UK). The ball then became very festive as everyone celebrated the triumphs in anticipation for the start of the tournament.

This year the venue was the Harare showgrounds in the arena traditionally used for showjumping. It makes for a spectacular scene, the field is surrounded like an amphitheatre by a slope down on to the fields. The one side of the field held the sponsors tents, which were lavishly set out with drapes and seating areas, and served food and drink to the sponsors and their entourage whilst at the top end of the field there was a grandstand for the spectators providing shade and a spectacular overhead view of the proceedings; great for viewing the exceptional polocrosse.

Play began on the Friday and saw 4 B pool games and 2 A pool games, whilst on Saturday they had 4 A Pool games and 2 B pool games. Each pool was a round robin with the top 2 teams progressing to the final and the bottom two to the 3rd place playoff. Play started off at 8 am in the B pool with a replay of last years final between the High Voltage team and the Progroup team and as with last years final the Progroup team managed to upset High Voltage to win by one goal with some great play. The second game was between Alcredo and Tanzi, this saw the girls from Tanzi come together and win by a fair margin. The first A pool Game was next, this saw Koala Park, last years champions, take on Millers, one of the new teams, and although Millers did well and managed to stay in it for a while, in the end Koala Park were very clinical and finished with a convincing win. The second game had Renaissance head up against Capicol in a thrilling encounter that seesawed from one side to the other, but eventually Renaissance established a lead and managed to keep that lead to the end and claim victory. The second B pool game in the afternoon started off with High Voltage playing Alcredo and, although Alcredo put up a fight, the High Voltage team proved too strong and ended with a convincing win. The last game for the day was between the Progroup winners from last year and the Tanzi girls, an all girls side made up of the top Zim and SA ladies. The game got off to a flyer and the girls were playing really well, there was some of the best ladies polocrosse on display as they cleaned up the Progroup side to take victory.

Saturday’s play started with the Koala Park team taking on the Renaissance side, both winners from the previous day, however, again with clinical and precise play the Koala park team asserted their authority and beat the Renaissance side quite convincingly. The Capicol side took on the Millers Team next and saw the Capicol side find a bit of rhythm and win the game. The next games were the B pool games for the day and had High Voltage take on Tanzi and in a very closely contested and hard fought game High Voltage managed to come together and, with some hard play, win by a narrow margin to gain themselves a spot in the final. The next game had the Progroup side take on the Alcredo team with Progroup needing 30+ goals to make the final a very possible task considering Alcredo’s performance so far in the event, and although they got close the Alcredo team pulled them back and away from the delights of another final. This meant that the B pool final was between the Tanzi Girls and the High Voltage side.

The A pool games for the afternoon saw things between Koala park and Capicol get off to a thrilling start and in a tensely contested match Capicol lined up for the last chukka 5 goals down and with a lot to play for. However, in one of the most thrilling and astonishing chukkas of the weekend so far Capicol thrashed in a 9 goal chukka and left the crowd and the Koala Park side in shock. The next game was between Renaissance and Millers where Renaissance needed to win with 35 goals to get into the final in front of the Capicol side and they did try, with the Millers team putting in all their effort to try and win their first game. The Renaissance team got close and ended up with 34 goals missing the final by one goal, a real gut wrenching margin and an unlucky end to their run for the trophy.

The Sunday started with the B pool 3rd place final which was won by the Progoup side leaving Alcrdeo in 4th. Then there was the A pool 3rd place final which was won by the Renaissance team, leaving Millers in 4th.

The B pool final was a tense affair between the Tanzi Girls and High Voltage, having met already in the pool matches where High Voltage claimed victory the girls were sure to mix it up and try take the trophy from the High Voltage team’s grasp. The match started off with the score neck and neck with neither team gaining a strong advantage. There was some great play from the girls, with Kelly Redford at the 1 supported very well by Celicia Jacobs at the 3 making a great combination in the one section, whilst in the other they had Audrey Logan bringing her section back at 1 by putting in some goals, as this is where they had lost it in the previous game. With things close up to the 6th chukka the High Voltage team went into the 7th and really asserted some authority in the form of Steven Kane, who had been a pretty much dominant figure throughout the tournament, playing some fantastic polocrosse. This took the Tanzi team into the final chukka with a lot of work to do and at the beginning of the chukka it looked like they might be in it but some great polocrosse from the combination of Gordon Shaw, Craig Mannix and the comeback of Jonjon Rutherford proved too much for the girls and High Voltage ran out winners of the B pool Zimbabwe Open 2009

The much anticipated A pool final set off to a roaring start with everything to play for and everything to loose both teams were grasping at every opportunity they could to try and take the lead. Things were close most of the way, however, at some stage both teams managed to gain a 3 goal advantage and it seemed like they would run away with it only to be roped back in by their adversaries. The sixth chukka was particularly entertaining and interesting as there were 6 players on the field – not a single one of them was Zimbabwean – in the Zim Open! Anyway, as sometimes happens a fight broke out and a player from each team was sent to the sin bin leaving 4 players on the field – a first for a Zim open final. So after the entertaining sixth the players lined up for the seventh with Koala park holding a slight lead. There was some great play and the grittiness of the Capicol players in Gavin Cocker, Bruce Maclarty and Graham Maclarty, a young 15 year old from South Africa, matching a flamboyant Mikey Krynaw, Danie Swan and Chris Anderson for Koala Park. Mikey and Graham played fantastic polocrosse all weekend and it was great to see such a high standard from both these players. The 7th chukka scores ended pretty much even but Koala Park stayed in front on the scoreboard.

This left things in limbo for the final chukka between the sections that had both had yellow cards, Koala lined up with Troy Henry, Lance Anderson and Shane Hill, a formidable combination of Australian and New Zealand polocrosse up against Charl Duplessis, Damien Harris and Jan Albert Steenkamp, some of SA’s finest talent. It was a ripping final chukka with the Capicol side getting a lot of ball at the back and looking to rope in the Koala Park side, however, the Koala team managed to turn over possession a couple of times and by making certain of the possession they had they managed to keep the Capicol Team at bay and take their lead to the end to make Koala Park Champions of the 2009 Zimbabwe Polocrosse Open 2009.

In a final comment about the overseas players, it is really such a privilege to have such a calibre of player in a tournament, but what was really pleasing was the manner in which they conducted themselves. they were never anything short of courteous, grateful and very open and friendly to the people around them. It was great to have them out and we look forward to seeing them again.