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Young Indigenous Stockmen Saddle Up for Beach Polo Challenge


Australia’s only beach polo event, Pinctada Cable Beach Polo 2013, will feature the inaugural Kimberley Challenge as one of the showcase matches of the tournament.

The Kimberley Challenge will see young Indigenous stockmen team up with leading polo players in a clash that embraces the excitement of beach polo and the rich rural history of Australia’s unique Kimberley landscape.  

The stockmen will also be vying for the inaugural Swan Valley Polo Club Scholarship, which will be awarded to the player who demonstrates outstanding horsemanship and polo skills as well as sportsmanship and a willingness to learn.

Pinctada Cable Beach Polo 2013 will be played on the sweeping sands of iconic Cable Beach in Broome Western Australia on the weekend of May 18-19 2013.  The tournament, which is the cornerstone of the Pinctada Cable Beach Polo Festival, will feature four beach polo matches, including an international clash.  The Kimberley Challenge will headline Saturday’s action. 

The Kimberley Challenge has been developed to introduce the sport of polo to young riders in the Kimberley and 4-goal player Matt Welsh, Captain of the Swan Valley Polo Club, will oversee the training of the young stockmen in the skills of polo with the help of other experienced polo players.  

Festival Director Marilynne Paspaley AM said the inaugural Kimberley Challenge also showcases the spirit, history and culture of the Kimberley. 

“The Kimberley Challenge celebrates this unique region by bringing the stockmen to the sea to compete in an event that is also unique – Australia’s only beach polo tournament,” she says.  “The inaugural Kimberley Challenge also celebrates the community spirit in the Kimberley, which is as extraordinary as the landscape – this is a ‘can do’, innovative and proud community that has embraced Australia’s only beach polo tournament with tremendous support.”   

Matt Welsh’s polo career has taken him around the world and he is thrilled to have the opportunity to introduce young people to his sport.

“Our ultimate goal is to make the sport of polo available to everyone and I think the Kimberley Challenge is a terrific initiative,” Matt says.  “Our focus this year is on young Indigenous stockmen, but in time we see the event developing to include all young people who grow up or work on the Kimberley stations.  Most professional polo players come from a farming background and we want all young Kimberley horsemen and women to experience the thrill and the fun of our sport. The idea this year is to introduce some of the young Indigenous stockmen to polo and hopefully they’ll take it back to the remote Kimberley stations and start playing the game again.  Polo was a popular pastime on the stations a century ago, but to the best of my knowledge it is rarely played now.”

A story about a polo match between two Kimberley stations in the late 1800s inspired the Kimberley Challenge.

“I came across a great story about a polo match played between two stations on Christmas Day back in the 1890s,” Matt explains.  “It prompted me to start thinking about ways we could help to reintroduce this polo tradition to the remote stations.  I sent the story to Marilynne Paspaley who saw an opportunity to embrace the tradition in the Pinctada Cable Beach Polo event and so, the Kimberley Challenge was conceived.  The Swan Valley Polo Club is also supporting the initiative by announcing a scholarship in conjunction with the Kimberley Challenge.”

The inaugural Swan Valley Polo Club Scholarship will offer the successful recipient the opportunity to work, train and play with a leading Swan Valley polo establishment during the 2014 polo season.  The contenders will be the four Indigenous stockmen who will compete in the 2013 Kimberley Challenge.

“We are working closely with associates in the Kimberley to identify stockmen to invite to play in the Kimberley Challenge,” Matt says.  “Our selection criteria reflects the notions that the scholarship embraces – we are looking for young Indigenous stockmen who display outstanding horsemanship, great sportsmanship and a commitment to learn the skills of polo.  We have already identified two stockmen who have accepted our invitation to join the challenge and we will be announcing the full teams in April.”

The Kimberley Challenge will be a four-chukka game with each team comprising a professional polo player and two Indigenous stockmen – the three-a-side format is one of the key differences between beach polo and traditional polo, which features four players in each team. 

“Personally I love the flair Indigenous athletes display in a range of sports, but I’ve never seen an Indigenous polo player,” Matt says.  “My challenge is to not only train the stockmen in the skills of polo but also to give them the confidence to display their horsemanship on the beach polo arena. This event is a first and I think it has the potential to be a fast and exciting spectacle – hopefully we will also discover some brilliant polo players. The idea of the scholarship is to follow up on the training for the Pinctada Cable Beach Polo tournament and give at least one stockman a shot at a professional pol
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