“A 1-all draw … yes Codie would have been happy with that because everyone involved are winners.”

This was one of the first comments from a spectator at the end of the second annual Codie Irwin Memorial Trophy game hosted by the Birchleigh Polo Club at Paki Paki on Thursday. The fixture is played in memory of Irwin whose love of horses and the game of polo grew when he participated in the club’s programme aimed at helping at-risk youth stay on the right side of the law.

Flaxmere teen Irwin was 16 when the motorcycle he was riding and a light truck collided on Stock Road, Bridge Pa in January last year. On Thursday his brother, Lorenzo, played alongside Wirihana Kururangi, Alex Lomas and club groom Ruth Horrocks in the Manurau One team which drew with the Manurau Two team of the Irwins cousin Satriani Hokianga, Hugh Moss, Izzy Kelsey, a fulltime player with the club, and Cheyanne Paul.

Kururangi, an accomplished player from the Porangahau-based Wanstead club who was eager to play in the fixture and support the Flaxmere youths, scored his team’s goal and Hugh Moss scored Manurau Two’s goal.

“It was a real tight game and it took a long time before the goals were scored,” club founder and programme co-ordinator Richard Kettle recalled.

“Satriani was the only player from the programme who played in the fixture last year. In October last year the other players on the programme couldn’t ride a horse.”

Moss won the award for the most improved player on the programme this season. The programme has been running since 2010.

Kettle pointed out all aspects of polo are covered during the programme. Players have to do the hard yards first before getting on a horse.

They have to learn to put the horses’ gear on and off, to swing a polo mallet and to look after their mounts.

“They don’t get the privilege of riding until they can saddle and bridle a horse and take care of it.”

Kettle said the teens are being trained in a sport where, if they wished, they could gain employment and travel opportunities.

“If these boys are keen, there are huge opportunities out there. They can get jobs in overseas polo yards and a chance to compete as well.”

The Manurau One team from left Wirihana Kururangi, Lorenzo Irwin, Alex Lomas and Ruth Horrocks. Photo/Supplied