The UK Pony Club has announced plans for a first Home Nations International, which will see teams from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland compete against each other across three age groups. The event will be hosted by Celyn Polocrosse Club in Backford, Cheshire on the 25th and 26th of July 2015 and in an unusual twist the four Nations will each have three sections in their team.
Each team will have an Open section (Under 25’s), a Junior section (Under 16’s) and a Mini section (Under 12’s) and each section will have four players in it, which three on the pitch and one impact player in reserve at all times. The sections will compete individually and as part of the overall team, so a Nation can win individual age categories and also the overall competition.
The Home Nations has become possible due to the growth and development of polocrosse in the other nations outside of England, which is where it has been strongest. Polocrosse has been in Wales for over 20 years and a number of Welsh born players have represented the United Kingdom Polocrosse Association and the Pony Club in international competitions. However, Pony Club polocrosse in branches in Wales has struggled in recent years but is now starting to make a comeback, due to the hard work of polocrosse clubs such as Celyn and Welsh Dragons working with their local branches.
Several Pony Club branches in Northern Ireland have played polocrosse for a number of years and they have gone from strength to strength in the last few years. This culminated in Northern Irish Pony Club Branches taking two of the division titles at the 2014 Pony Club Championships and so they will undoubtedly feel that they will have a real chance in the international this summer if they have all their best players available.
Polocrosse started in Scotland four years ago and their players have improved rapidly. Ruaridh Gillanders and Annabel Mahoney became the first Scottish players called up to a UK polocrosse squad this year when they were selected for the UK Polocrosse Association’s Junior squad and both will be in contention for places in The Pony Club competition.
Each Nation has an appointed manager and coach to oversee the selection and preparation of their team. The managers have already been announced with Chris Milburn put in charge of England, Katie Gillanders of Scotland, Angela Fynn of Northern Ireland and Olivia Miller and Anna Tarbuck of Wales. Potential players have to have nominated themselves by the end of April and there will be training and selection weekends in May where the managers and coaches will watch the players and work with them before selecting their team and then working with them in the run up to the competition.
The event will take place just two weeks after the 2015 Polocrosse World Cup ends in South Africa and will be an opportunity for spectators in the UK to watch the next generation of polocrosse stars. Obviously Polocrosse Extreme will be there to report back on all the action in case you can’t get there!