When Polocrosse Australia annnounced in early November that their own men’s and ladies’ teams would face a “Rest of the World” Seven in April 2023 there was excitement from polocrosse fans around the world. The prospect of the world’s best team facing the rest of the world’s best players was something new and different; it had some intriguing qualities that a normal test match series between countries could never have. The main question was could the Rest of the World team hope to beat the Australians?
However, when the teams were actually announced on the 14th of December it did slightly fail to live up to expectations. The two “Rest of the World” teams were not as expected by most fans, instead they were dominated by South Africa and New Zealand players. The Men’s team did include one Zambian and one USA player alongside the four South Africans and one New Zealander but then the Irish and Zimbabwe players were simply named as reserves; and there was no slot at all for the UK’s nominated player. The ladies team was even less diverse with three South Africans, three New Zealanders and one UK player. Australia will play New Zealand in test match series in February and March 2023 already and though the propsect of seeing them take on South African players again is always exciting it is not really what fans believed would be happening from the (albeit limited) information that was available before the teams were announced.
What was perhaps stranger than the teams was the lack of explanation as to why they were this way. Was it because of a lack of nominations? Or was it because the Australians had realised there were problems with selecting one player from each country? It appears in truth that both reasons are partly true.
For the ladies team it would seem that there was a lack of nominations. The USA and Ireland have both confirmed they did not nominate a player for the ladies team and it seems likely that Zimbabwe and Zambia did not either, though there has been no confirmation of this from their relevant associations to date. If players had been nominated it would seem likely that they would have at least been named as reserves, unless the standard was considerably lower than expected.
For the men’s team it seems to come down to an expectation gap between the standard of players Australia expected to be nominated and which nominations they actually received, though there has been no actual statement from Polocrosse Australia on this topic. When we contacted Polocrosse Australia for comment on the nominations received and the selection process for the teams we were politely redirected to the International Polocrosse Council.
We were able to have a phone call with the IPC President Gill Mathie, who made it clear that he would not be putting anything in writing but was happy to discuss the matter with us on the phone; and said he was similarly happy to discuss the matter with anyone else who wanted to contact him. It was obvious from this phone call that the IPC was frustrated by the situation and the fact there was criticism of the teams that had been named. However, they felt all the countries had been communicated with regularly throughout the process and it had been made clear to the countries originally that players must be of a world cup standard. If countries failed to nominate players of an appropriate standard then the plan was apparently always to ask the top countries in the world to nominate further players. The IPC also said that there was a lack of engagement from other countries and they were not good at responding to communications from Polocrosse Australia and the IPC.
This was a very different view to the one we received when we spoke to a couple of coaches and players who have not been included in the men’s side. They said that they had not to date received any official communication as to why their players were not included and were disgruntled with the handling of the selection process. They also disputed that their players were not of a world cup standard.
As a volunteer run sport it is inevitable that communication will not always be perfect and sometimes emails and other communication will be missed which can lead to problems. However, there does currently seem to be a considerable gap on this matter and bad feeling on both sides which will need to be resolved if the sport is to work posiively together in the future.
Regardless of where the actual truth lies in terms of communication, what does seem more surprising about this matter is the potential expectation gap between the standard of the “Rest of the World” players Polocrosse Australia expected to have nominated and what they received. It is no secret that a number of the World Cup countries are weaker than teams like Australia and South Africa, so they could not have realistically have expected to have received seven players all of the same standard.
It is really not clear in the final selection why Houston Hutcherson has been judged good enough for inclusion in the men’s team while other players who are believed to be of a similar standard are reserves or not included at all. Houston is surely a good player; he is named in the USA’s men’s team to tour to New Zealand in February but he has no existing World Cup pedigree and as far as we are aware this is his first open men’s tour. Seb Chambers has played in two World Cup’s for Ireland but is only named as a reserve, as is Dan Small of Zimbabwe who played in the mixed ZimZam team against South Africa in the summer. The UK’s nomination of Stuart Dyson, who was one of their best players in their own summer test match defeats to South Africa in Underberg and had a very strong end to the 2022 dosmestic season, didn’t make the reserves list.
So it seems that Polocrosse Australia were either convinced that countries would nominate certain male players that they felt were good enough or perhaps always expected to have to turn to South Africa and others to fill the gaps. That is not necessarily wrong, ultimately it is their inivitational event, but there seems to have been a lack of expectation setting in the limited public communication on the topic.
Without an official confirmation as to the basis of the selection process we are obviously slightly filling in the gaps but one thing is clear; the world of polocrosse continues to struggle in terms of communication, both between individual countries and in more public settings. The only public document on this topic is the original invite letter and with no statements seemingly forthcoming fans will probably just have to continue to draw their own conclusions.