Polo column: Eduardo Heguy recalls 80-goal matches at Ellerston and backs HPA call on zero tolerance for player verbal abuse of umpires.
David Paradice, fund manager and polo player who has joined forces with Ros Packer to keep the late Kerry Packer’s Ellerston grounds alive, told The Telegraph that the media magnate’s widow was “utterly determined to continue the legacy’ which was created for polo at the New South Wales estate.
Mrs Packer kept a significant number of ponies, some of which she bought from son James, who had wound down his polo concerns, leading to fears that the Packer polo dynasty, at its height the most formidable set in the world for almost two decades, would been lost.
With the Packers, Paradice will keep polo tournaments running at Ellerston, in the Upper Hunter Region of New South Wales, 200 miles from Sydney.
“I’m just partnering with Ros on this, but it’s all down to her really and her desire to keep it alive. Ros wanted to continue the legacy that Kerry Packer had established. She’s very determined about that, with Gretel, her daughter,” Paradice said.
“I can understand why James has decided not to play – it’s not cheap – you have to be completely committed to it if you are doing it, and it is a dangerous sport. If your heart is not in playing polo, there’s no point doing it.”
“I think they are still the best grounds in the world. They’ve got six fields there. It would have been a travesty if they had decided not to pursue it. The grounds are fantastic. It doesn’t take much to get that going, to get the whole thing happening again. It made a huge difference last year with tournaments there.”
“I grew up in Scone (40 miles away) where my father was a doctor and I grew up riding horses. Through business I’ve got to know the Packers. I’ve been playing with Ellerston for five years. If it wasn’t for Ros, the Ellerston thing wouldn’t be happening,” Paradice, 56, said.
Packer has played with James Beim and James Harper, the England international players. “We played a few times in various tournaments over there with great success,” explained Paradice, with their quartet having won the Dudley Cup in Australia.
Eduardo Heguy, the Argentine player, said that he was “delighted” at the news, and recalled 80-goal tournaments played at Ellerston in the early Nineties.
“Kerry was so committed to the sport, he would have eight, 10-goal players brought over there and the standard of the matches was as good as the Argentine Open. They are wonderful, wonderful fields and it’s brilliant that they are keeping them alive for that part of the world,” Heguy said.
Zero tolerance on talking back to umpires
Eduardo Heguy concurs with David Woodd, CEO of the Hurlingham Polo Association, who told The Telegraph recently that polo should could learn from the comportment of players at the Rugby World Cup played in England and Wales last month.
“I completely agree (with David Wood) after watching the Rugby World Cup,” said Heguy. “You have to admire the players respect the referees. and we should copy TMO technology. We could ask hawkeye to make decisions. It would improve polo. After the RWC, huge guys who weigh 130kilos talk to the referee who is 50 kilos lighter and they call him ‘sir’.”
Heguy believes there is too much talking back to umpires. “Yes. It is better when nobody talks. But if the top players talk, then everybody talks. If Adolfito (Cambiaso) and Facundo (Pieres) talk to the umpires then everybody will do it. The change needs to come from the top first and then it will filter down to the bottom in the sport. For me it has to be an example from the top to the bottom.”
Heguy would support a law being brought in to polo. “I like the idea of ‘Zero Tolerance’ on this. But it should be brought in for everyone. If it’s like that I would love it, and it would make the sport more entertaining to play and to watch.”