What is Polocrosse?
Polocrosse is an exciting team sport played on horseback between teams of 6 players each, with each team divided into two sections of three. Very simply, a “section” is made up of the “Attack” player (or No.1), who’s job it is to score goals, the “Centre” player (No.2), who acts as both an offensive and defensive player, and the “Defence” player (No.3), who’s ultimate duty is to prevent the opposing team’s No.1 from scoring.
The game is played with a soft, thick-skinned sponge rubber ball, which is about 100mm in diameter. Each player is equipped with a racquet (usually about 90cm long), which consists of a cane shaft with a thickened handle, at the end of which is a round head fitted with a loose string net in which the ball is carried.
Most types of horse may be used to play polocrosse, varying in breed, size and age. In South Africa, one finds that Thoroughbreds are the most popular. The polocrosse horse needs to be in good physical condition, and should be agile, fit and have good stamina. During a tournament, a player may use only one horse. However, in the case of an injury to a horse, a substitute may be used.
Stallions, mares in foal or horses with eyesight problems may not be played.
The game is played on a field 55 metres wide and 146,5 metres long, with 2,5 metre wide goals at each end. The field is divided into 3 areas; two goal scoring areas measured 27,5 metres from each goal line, and the mid-field area of 91,5 metres. In front of each set of goalposts a semi-circle is marked, known as “the D”. The lines separating the goal scoring areas from the mid-field are called “penalty lines”.
The first section from each team play against each other for a 6 or 8 minute period of play, called a “chukka”, followed by the other sections of each team in the second chukka, while the first sections’ horses and players rest. The game continues in this fashion for a total of 6 chukkas (or 8 in international games).
Play starts with the two opposing sections lining up in order, in two parallel lines on the centre line of the field, near the sideline. One of the 2 mounted umpires then throws the ball in, above the players’ heads. The players attempt to gain possession of the ball by catching it or by picking it up from the ground with their racquets.
As the objective of the game is to score more goals than the opposition, the team in possession of the ball will pass the ball among themselves so that their No.1 player can get into the goal scoring area and shoot the goal. The opposition will try to prevent this by robbing the ball from an opposition player’s racquet, by intercepting a pass or by pushing a player out of the field of play.
To make the game more challenging, the ball may not be carried by a player over the penalty line (in either direction), but has to be bounced over the line or passed over the line to another player.
The only players permitted in the goal scoring areas are the attacking No.1 and the defending No.3. A goal is scored by throwing the ball from the racquet and between the goalposts. This may only be carried out while in the goal scoring area, but outside of the semi-circle or “D”.
If the attempt at goal is successful, then play starts again from the centre of the field, on the side opposite from where the ball was previously thrown in. If the attempt at goal is unsuccessful and the ball goes over the goal line, the opposition’s No.3 player takes the ball and plays upfield.