Australia lifted the polocrosse world cup for the third time on Finals day at the 2019 Adina Polocrosse World Cup, becoming the first country to win the trophy three times. They defeated South Africa in the final and in the end it was a comfortable victory, after the match was initially close. Finals day also saw New Zealand clinch third place with a good win against Zambia and saw Zimbabwe defeat USA in the 7th/ 8th play off, after the USA lead for most of the match.
The day started with the 7th/ 8th play off, which was a repeat of a group game which Zimbabwe had won. However, on Finals day it was the USA that started the brighter and some good play from their number 1’s in Megan Waggener and Braxton Hamlin, who have both looked good throughout the world cup, saw them lead by 12-5 after three chukkas.
The men managed to draw a high scoring fourth chukka 4 all but it was in the fifth that the Zimbabwe fight back started; their ladies taking the chukka 5-2 and narrowing the gap to 18-14, with some good play from Sophie Sargeant and Suzanne Sargeant. The USA men inched a bit further ahead in the sixth, winning 4-3, but the Zimbabwean ladies pulled out all the stops in chukka seven and got it back within 2 goals with a 4-1 chukka.
Going into the eighth the overall score was 23-21 to the USA but Zimbabwean men got on a roll and managed to overcome the deficit and get one goal ahead, winning in the end 26-25, with some great play from Graham Keith at number 3 and Danie Swan at number 1.
The USA will have been gutted to lose it in the last, particularly as they had the ball and chances early on in the last chukka. Some rushed play and passes conceded possession to Zimbabwe who capitalised on it. However, it would have been harsh for Zimbabwe to finish 8th in this world cup, especially after they took Zambia to the wire in their group match. If they had held on to win that match they would have finished second in the group and been in the top four.
The USA, despite finishing 8th, can hold their heads high; they competed in every match and never got completely outclassed, even against Australia in the group stages. Their number 1’s in Megan Waggener and Braxton Hamlin in particular produced some brilliant individual goals and their number 3’s in Rahula Desai and Kat Liner showed some good moments, improving with every match they played.
The second match of the day saw New Zealand take on Zambia for third and fourth. For Zambia they must have had a feeling of deja vu because this match had a similar pattern to their semi final against South Africa. Zambia lead for the early stages but then a lack of horse power seemed to tell and New Zealand levelled it up and overtook them, ultimately winning the match 33-19.
New Zealand had switched their ladies section back to Kyla Hill at number 1 and Beth Peaker at number 3, having changed them round for the semi final against Australia. This approach seemed to have the desired effect as, after losing the first chukka 4-3, they won the next three ladies’ chukkas 5-1, 6-1 and 5-2.
The men’s section was closer, winning two chukkas each but chukka four saw New Zealand win 6-0. This chukka was also noticeable for the fact Zambian had to make a double enforced substitution which probably didn’t help their cause. Firstly they had to take off Damien Harris due to a horse injury and then, having switched Mikey Kryauw back to number 3, they had to also take off Mikey and bring Damien back on, on a different horse. At this point Zambia must have been wondering if they would even finish the match with eight horses; they only started the match with 12 having lost a number of their horse pool earlier in the week to lameness. However, they did finish and they did fight to the last, winning the last chukka, but New Zealand were not to be denied their third place and it would be hard to argue that they don’t deserve it.
New Zealand overcame South Africa in the group stages and if it hadn’t been for their unexpected defeat to Ireland they would have topped their group and faced Zambia in the semi finals; on the evidence of this match they would have then become world cup finalists for the first time since 2003.
New Zealand will at least have been delighted to climb back into the top four after 8 years of not being in it. Their stars were their number 3’s in Beau Moore and Beth Peaker, particularly in the group stages, but their whole team played well and played together well.
Zambia will be very disappointed to slip from second in the world to fourth. They didn’t play as well as in 2015, particularly in their ladies section. They clearly did have some horse problems; they seemed to struggle with horses and then struggle for horses as a number went out lame, but they also made mistakes; pick ups were missed, passes went astray and at one point Mikey Krynuw even missed a shot at goal. On the other hand, they were absolutely brlliant at points; Damien Harris particularly was a seemingly unstoppable force in the number three shirt for large parts of their games, pulling in some exceptional pick ups and catches and also causing number 1’s a lot of issues in the goal scoring areas; he was their player of the tournament.
So after the two “warm up” matches came the main event; Australia was on the edge of its seat, would they finally reclaim the World Cup for a sport they very much view as theirs. The pain of losing it in the mud in the UK and then not being able to reclaim it in the dust of South Africa has been a thorn in the side of all Australians (editor’s note: well those who know about polocrosse anyway) for eight long years and here on the grass of Morgan Park was a chance to avenge those years of hurt. Australia expected and it was not to be disappointed!
They lead from the opening chukka and though South Africa looked initially like they might be able to push them close, with a scoreline of 8-6 after two chukkas, that started to look less likely after chukka 3 when Lucy Grills, Beth Hafey and Suzette Thomas combined for a 6-1 chukka. After that victory always looked pretty likely. The South Africa men, a team which included three double world champions in Graham Maclarty, Travis Timm and Jannie Steenkamp, pushed Australia closer but even they couldn’t win a chukka, drawing two chukkas 4 all and losing two 4-3.
The final score was 34-21 to Australia and they were worthy winners; their ladies section was undoubtedly the strongest in the competition. Lucy Grills was brilliant in the number 3 shirt and Suzette Thomas and Lauren Sillitoe missed very little in the number 1 shirts. The men were also ultimately the strongest, though were pushed harder. Some of their play in the final and in other matches was, at points, exceptional. They threw some great long passes, particularly Lance Anderson, and Jimmy and Abbott Grills scored some brilliant angle goals, both overarm and underarm.
Abbott also provided a moment of light relief in the final when, having got on the end of a brilliant passing move, he over committed to leaning out the side when throwing the goal, and promptly slide off the side of his horse. Luckily the ball still went through the posts and he rose, unhurt, from the floor to carry on.
South Africa will be annoyed to lose the World Cup they have held for eight years but they never looked quite a strong as in 2015; in particular their ladies always looked slightly vunerable and also their men made more mistakes than normal; Graham Maclarty missing his opening shot at goal in the final. Jannie Steenkamp was impressive in the number 3 shirt, winning ball strongly at the back but in Lance Anderson he had met his equal and they shared ball fairly evenly in the final.
So Australia finally reclaim the polocrosse world cup. Their next target is to defend it in 2023 when it will once again be held in Shongweni in Soith Africa. If they achieve that then they will firmly lay the ghosts of 2015 to rest.
As for the event itself, it will be hard for South Africa to top. It apparently cost over a million Australian dollars to put on this world cup once all the costs of items like the filming and giant video screens have been taken into account. The last world cup in South Africa cost just over a million rand (a hundred thousand Australian dollars) and the 2011 world cup in the UK cost about a hundred and fifty thousand pounds (about three hundred thousand Australian dollars) – Australia can play in a different league when it comes to funding events of this nature and it was a brilliant event, incredibly well organised and with very little going wrong throughout it (editor’s note: though some of the commentators seemingly struggled with some player names and identification for every team except for Australia – there were certainly a good number of player name switches and at points even team name switches throughout the competition. Indeed in one match the noted South African umpire Patrick O’Sullivan became Patrick O’Leary while Seb Chambers was regularly referred to as Seb Connors in some sort of bastardisation of his own name and Conor Doyle’s name we presume). The instant replays and the live streaming added a new dimension and that is now something polocrosse fans around the world will expect of future world cups.
The overall quality of the horse pools was exceptional – there were some truly brilliant horses throughout the pools and though some teams might feel they didn’t get get the luck of the draw, the overall quality was the best we have seen. The only major grumble seemed to be with some of the umpiring, which was a bit inconsistent. Some umpires were far hotter on things like being straight in the line out than others and apparently within the umpires themselves there was a disssatisfaction that they weren’t getting the support they wanted from the IPC. However, that area was beyond the control of Warwick Polocrossse Club who can definitely hold their heads very high and say they put on an exceptional event. Now roll on Shongweni 2023!