Polo may be as old as the Bronze Age but the professional game is making its first appearance as a sport in Tasmania.
At a new polo field at ‘Barnbougle’ in Tasmania’s north east, two professional tournaments are being played.
Two semi-trailers filled with polo horses have arrived from New South Wales, and 16 riders and more than 40 horses are preparing for spirited games.
“If you’re playing for high stakes, there’s a lot of aggression,” player Justin Couper said.
“By its very nature it’s pretty tough.
“Obviously the rules are set up for safety.
“So you can’t cut people off at certain distances and certain speeds.
“But generally, the idea is to get people out of the way, and take a ball from one end to the other as fast as possible.”
Mr Couper not only plays polo, it is his business as well.
When he is not working on new wind farms, he is breeding and training horses and coaching polo players.
And at his polo horse farm, ‘The Creech’, there is a tourism business emerging from a previous failed forestry business as well.
“At Evercreech, or what’s left of Evercreech since it was sold to Gunns and put down to plantation, I’ve got most of the infrastructure.
“So the houses and yards, and we’ve turned it into accommodation and a polo farm.
“We’re breeding our own horses here, so we’ve got horses at different stages of training.
“We’ve got another 40 that we’ve brought down from Sydney.
“There’ve been out spelling for a few good weeks so we threw them on a truck and brought them down to Tasmania.”
Golfing synergies with polo tourism
Mr Couper said the business idea took hold about four years ago when he and Bridport farmer and owner of the Barnbougle and Lost Farm golf links, Richard Satler met.
Both believe polo and golf are a perfect fit.
Now the pair each have polo fields, with Mr Satler’s at Barnbougle on the coast and at Mr Couper’s at ‘The Creech’ in Tasmania’s north east highlands near Fingal.
Many of the tournament horses have come with Andrew Williams, who is one of Australia’s highest rated polo professionals from Willo Polo in New South Wales.
He has been travelling to Tasmania for nearly four years and is encouraging the fledgling sport.
Mr Williams said Tasmania was a perfect place for summer polo, because hot days interstate force players to pause.
“I think it will be a wonderful summer destination for polo, because most of the mainland’s pretty hot,” he said.
“You can’t play in Brisbane in summer.
“New South Wales in Sydney, you can play 11 months of the year, but summer is pretty hot and humid.
“Melbourne they play predominantly summer, but once again it goes from hot to cold every week or every day.
“And Adelaide and Perth it’s summer time too and it’s pretty unbearable.
“So this is a big exercise to kick start polo and, hopefully, anyone wants to have a go, they can.”
Some of Australia’s best players have been invited to play on the new Barnbougle polo field.
The business is also generating interest from overseas.
“We’ve got bookings for lessons from Hong Kong and Singapore,” Mr Couper said.
“We’ve got a lot of players lining up to play in this event, because they can see the potential of an untapped polo market in Tasmania.
“I’m often asked what am I farming at Evercreech, and the answer is always humans and horses.
“I’ve set up as a bit of a tourism venture with polo as the backdrop.
“A lot of my clientele through winter is motor bikers and hunters.
“Through summer, it’s polo and fly fishing and now it’s becoming a platform for polo enthusiasts to come here via Barnbougle, and see the rest of Tasmania from here.
“It’s something new and fresh for everybody, the spectators and the players.”