The game of polocrosse

Polocrosse is a game full of excitement and enjoyment. Players are allowed only to play one horse, except in the case of injury. There are no restrictions on the horse’s height, although polocrosse horses are generally smaller than 16hh. Horses of all breeds play polocrosse; the Australian Stock Horse is the most popular breed in Australia. Stallions are not permitted to play.

Each polocrosse team has six players, separated into two sections of three players each. Members of each of the two sections can choose to play two, three or four chukkas of 6 – 8 minutes, in line with the rules of a particular tournament. The two sections from each team alternate on and off the field each chukka.

For every match, there may be four, six or even eight chukkas. Players in each section take on the respective roles of — number one (attack), number two (a combination of defence and offence) and number three (defence).

The polocrosse field

The polocrosse field measures 60 by 150 yards (55m x 146m) with three distinct sections. The goal scoring areas on each end are 30 yards long. Only the No 1 of the attacking team and the No 3 of the defending team can play in those areas.

The middle area of the polocrosse field is 100 yards long and the line separating the goal scoring and centre areas is called the ‘penalty’ or thirty-yard line.

The goal posts are set 8ft apart. To score the ball must be thrown from outside an 11-yard semicircle in from of the goal.

Players can pick up the ball from the ground or catch it in their racket, and ride with it throwing it to other players until it gets to the No 1 in the scoring area who then scores. However, a player is not mean to carry the ball over the penalty line. Instead, they bounce it over or pass it to another player who is over the line, so the ball is not in their hands while crossing the line.

A player carrying the ball must do so on the stick side – this implies that players who prefer to use their right hand must carry the ball on the offside of the horse.

A player with the ball commits a foul if they cross the racket over the centreline of the horse ( the line that runs from the ear to the tail of the horse). However, a player can quickly pick up or catch the ball on the non-stick side and send it to their stick side immediately without committing a foul.

Each chukka starts with a line-up at the central spot on the side boundary line in the centre field. All the players from each team line up in a single file while facing the umpire at the edge of the field, with the No 1s in front followed by the No 2s and then the No 3s.

The umpire throws the ball between the players at the mid-shoulder and racket height, so that all players can go for the ball. The teams always line up on the defensive side of one another.

After either team scores a goal, the game starts again just in the same way, with the line-up taking place on the alternate side for each goal scored. Whenever a goal attempt is missed, the No 3 is given a 10-yard throw from the 30-yard line.

Penalties, fouls and punishments

The most common award given in the case of a penalty is a 10-yard throw. The position of the throw is determined by the spot at which the foul occurred. However, depending on the nature of the penalty, the 10-yard throw may be taken at the place where the penalty occurred or be moved down the field to the next 30-yard line to the advantage of the affected team. If a team carrying the ball commits a foul, they will lose the ball possession to the other team at the point where the foul occurred. On the other hand, if the team carrying the ball is fouled, the penalty is often taken down the field to the advantage of the fouled team.

In polocrosse, not all fouls are penalised with a 10-yard throw. In severe cases, such as hitting another player in the head or helmet, the foul can lead to awarding a free goal to the affected team. If a player continues to commit fouls after due cautions by the umpire, committs a particularly dangerous or deliberate foul, or generally behaves dangerously, the umpire can dismiss the player from the field.

The game starts again with a line-up if a horse deflects the ball out of bound or if both teams are responsible for a penalty. If the penalty occurs when the ball is within the end zone, the umpire calls for a line-up within the area between the attacking No 1 and defending No 3 players. In a case of a penalty when the ball is in centre field, the game is restarted with a line-up at the nearest sideline.

For all players, riding through the goal posts is illegal, and if any player allows their horse to step their four legs through the opposing team is awarded a free goal.

To get the ball possession from an opponent, a player hits an opponent’s stick in an upward direction with the swing starting from below the horse’s quarters (forward swing) or below the horse’s withers (backward swing). This is done to prevent the opposing team from gaining possession of the ball to dislodge it and is often called “giving wood”.

While riding off is permitted, stopping over the ball or elbowing leads to a foul. Likewise, sandwiching a player between two players also constitutes a foul.

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