Whichever sport, when Australia plays South Africa expect a no-holds-barred competition. That’s true whether the game is cricket, rugby, or polocrosse.
Bodalla’s Farann Mathie admits the Australian women’s polocrosse team had to adapt their play, but still managed to trounce South Africa at the 2017 Carroll Truck Sales International Test Series at Warwick, Queensland.
“Africa does play it a little differently,” Mathie said.
“The South Africans pass to their attack player straight away: they play a faster game.”
Mathie said watching the South African men’s team was amazing, “so fast and their ball skills were incredible – fast and accurate”.
“Fortunately, we were able to shut down the South African women. The series was a best of three and we won all three,” Mathie said.
Australian coach Paul McGrath said the play of his team was unbelievable.
”Some of the passing between Grills and Mathie was just sensational,” McGrath said.
Mathie agreed she shared good play with Lucy Grills.
“The two of us click, even though we don’t get to play together very often. We’re a good combination,” Mathie said
Mathie said their first game was brilliant, with a 24 to 14 win.
“Then in the second game we gave 150 per cent, to win the game and the series. I seriously cannot explain how exciting and just amazing this game was,” the 21-year-old said.
“Those first two games were so pretty for those watching. I don’t even know how I pulled of some of the plays I made.”
Although Mathie said she considered herself more a centre or defence player, she was used in attack at Warwick.
“As the goal scorer, there is more expectation on you,” Mathie said.
That extra pressure didn’t phase Mathie.
“Out of the three tests, I played nine chukkas, and I played in the attack position every time. I had 12 shots and goal and only missed once – my last shot,” Mathie said.
What is polocrosse?
Mathie said polocrosse was a hybrid game: “It is a cross between polo and lacrosse”.
Two teams compete on a field 146.5 metres long and 55 metres wide, with goal-posts at each end.
Each team of six consists of two lots of three players – attack, cente and defence – which play alternative chukkas. There are usually six or eight chukkas per match.
Mathie said competitions ran from March through to August, “I am away most weekends. I am riding every day to keep fit and train my horses”.
My family have not let me stay on one good horse. I grew up riding pass-me-down horses, all types.- Farann Mathie
At the international meet at Warwick, Mathie said they were playing eight six-minute chukkas per game.
“I would come on in the third chukka. I really like that – two chukkas in and I am ready to go,” Mathie said.
Only the attacker can score a goal and only while in the goal scoring area of the field. The centre is the pivot of the team and the defender protects the goal.
The rubber ball is moved using a metre long ‘stick’ with a net on the end. Players catch the ball, or scoop it from the ground, in the net and ride with it or throw it from player to player until the attacker attempts to score.
At the national level, each player is allowed only one horse; there is a substitute horse available in case of an injury.
At the international level, visiting teams rely on horses provided by the host nation. For the international series, Australia put up two pools of 12 horses.
“The horse were even pools; both good groups of horses,” Mathie said.
“I was happy with the team we pooled but the horses I wanted were in the group that went to South Africa,” Mathie said.
Not that it mattered, Mathie is used to riding all types of horse.
“That is a key thing that helped me get into the team, riding strange horses,” the young equestrian said.
“My family have not let me stay on one good horse. I grew up riding pass-me-down horses, all types. They made sure I was always riding different horses.
“It often brings people unstuck, riding an unfamiliar horses.”
Mathie admits she does have some preferences though.
“I do like a flat running horse – when I ask for some gas, it goes – but I also like a horse that stops!”