Archives from 2011

Cranwell Polo Weekend

Published in RAF on 30 Nov 2011

The 2011 RAF Cranwell Polo weekend started again this year with a three-day training camp at Leadenham with nine both established players and beginners in attendance. The emphasis of the course led by the Leadenham 2 goal professional Mateus Jolley was on riding for polo; the mornings were spent in the sand school mastering the horsemanship required on the pitch; the afternoons were spent finessing rules and positioning then finishing with stick and ball and usually a frantic Gold Cup paced chukka.

The team selection gave the RAF two -4 goal teams for the weekend tournament which were matched by most of the attending sides. The draw saw the RAF teams pitted against all civilian teams from Leadenham and Ranksborough.

Whilst the RAF Spitfire team led by Wg Cdr Martin Adcock eventually dominated the Leadenham team into a convincing defeat, the RAF Hurricane team led by Gp Capt Affi Ashraf suffered at the hands of a well disciplined and hugely under handicapped Ranksborough. The final match in the draw was between the Army development team made up of the AGC and HAC and Rutland polo team made up largely of extremely talented and well horsed young protégés flown in especially for the high profile event.  Rutland took full advantage of all of this to dominate a well led but outclassed Army team.

After a well attended polo dinner kindly allowed by the Station Commander to be held in College Hall, the next day of competition was going to be a struggle. The loser’s final was played off against Leadenham and the RAF Hurricane side with the RAF finishing second. However it was a great opportunity for the RAF team; for Flt Lt Ross Thomson and SAC Ross Barriball to represent the RAF and play a faster pace of polo and for Flt Lt Hoogewerf to demonstrate all that she had learned in New Zealand with big ride offs and hits alike!

The subsidiary final was played between the well matched RAF Spitfire team and Army Development team. The two players of note in these teams were Wg Cdr Martin Adcock who lead from the back continuingly coaching his team and scoring the majority of the goals and LCpl Ben Dirvas whose huge shot and excellent horsemanship later earned him the MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the tournament. The outcome was ‘just’ in favour of the RAF with a flourish of goals in the 2 final chukkas, a thoroughly enjoyable and hard fought match was had by all with lots of points to work on.

The final saw all civilian teams against each other for the first time in years. The horse-power and carefully selected team from Rutland took the advantage over Ranksborough to win the RAF Cranwell weekend for the first time ever. Players of note were the 12 year old Edward Banner-Eve who played like a veteran and the slightly older Nick Winterton who controlled the game placing shot after shot in front of goal.

The RAF Cranwell tournament is always an excellent start to the season for players and ponies alike. This year may not have seen the right result on the score sheet for the RAF but in terms of player development and finding the first team players of the future it was a huge success and the perfect start to a busy polo calendar.

Leadenham Polo Club hold weekly lessons for local RAF personnel and offer military rates. For more information please contact Flt Lt Dave Black on 95721 7575 or go to the RAF Polo Association website

Hackett Army Novice Polo Team Vs Project Ultra Rmas

Published in Army Polo on 30 Nov 2011

Adorned with Audi sponsorship hoardings and bright sunshine, the Round Ground in front of New College at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst (RMAS) provided the most beautiful setting for an exhibition polo match between the Hackett Army Novice Team and the Project Ultra RMAS side.

For the Army, Maj Ben Marshall RGR lined up at back, Capt Matthew Blakiston LD at 3, Capt Alex Eade RE at 2 and 2Lt Nick Price and Gnr Lawrence Jackson both RA shared the number 1 jersey. RMAS fielded OCdts Henry Edwards at 4, Cameron Bacon at 3, James Willcox at 2 and James Garton and James Foster shared the number 1 spot.

Ponies for the Hackett Army side were kindly provided by J J Spark of Greenpoint Polo and fresh from the EFG Private Bank Army Polo Training Day the red shirts rode onto the pitch in confident mood. Gleaming sports cars adorning the touchline, a large crowd drawn from the RMAS Heritage Day and the mercurial commentary of Lt Col (retd) Simon Ledger all produced a fantastic atmosphere.

Through a series of rehearsed moves and accurate team play, the Army forged an early lead. Marshall, Blakiston and Eade all landed opening blows. Some great hitting from the back and purposeful mid field scrapping suggested a one sided affair but the never-say-die attitude one might expect from the Army’s fresh blood was clear for all to see. The ever-present Bacon went close to evening up proceedings on a number of occasions.

As the game marched on the Army were able to change formation as attention from the RMAS players increased which allowed Marshall to add 2 more to his tally with a series of surging runs. Blakiston and Eade picked up another couple in addition as well as putting several efforts wide and the stage was set for newcomer to the Army team: Gnr Lawrence Jackson. Late in the third chukka he capped a stirling all round performance with a fantastic angled strike bisecting the uprights.

Bacon was eventually able to trouble the scorers and the 4th chukka was largely about controlling the ball from the Army side’s perspective. The final score was 8 – 1_ in favourite of the Hackett Army Novice Team but the roar from the crowd and appreciation shown at the prize giving suggested it had been a much more closely fought affair.

OCdt Bacon’s pony Pogolina won the Best Playing Pony award, indicative of the effort he had put in, and Gnr Jackson became the first known player to be legally allowed to keep his Hackett Army polo shirt by the Chairman of Army Polo.


Efg Private Bank Army Polo Scholarship – South Africa

Published in Army Polo on 30 Nov 2011

Winston Churchill famously made the observation that a polo handicap is a passport to the world. And many people who have been involved with the sport would be inclined to agree with him. But they would also observe that, whilst a passport is necessary, you still need money to buy the ticket! So, with the generous support of an EFG Private Bank Army Polo Scholarship, Major Ben Marshall travelled to Jurassic Park Polo Club, South Africa, to spend 10 days taking advantage of a headstart to the English season. Here’s his report:

A key element of deciding where to go for pre-season training is finding good weather in April. Traditionally the UK is wet – ‘April showers’ are so-called for a reason, they happen in April – so people look overseas. Thus, I left England basking in 20-plus degrees of glorious spring sunshine and arrived in Durban to rain, thick fog and temperatures struggling to make it into double figures; clearly passports do not guarantee good weather!
Fortunately, the sun had followed me out there and, for the duration of my trip, glorious sunshine and clear blue skies were the order of the day.

The change in the weather enabled us to get straight on with the task – playing polo. The quick-draining grounds at the adjacent Swartberg Polo Club meant that we were able to play chukkas from the off, whilst waiting for the home pitch at Jurassic to dry out. The depth of talent in South Africa is such that their ‘farm chukkas’ normally start at the 4-goal level and, at Jurassic, are facilitated by having some of South Africa’s best home-grown talent on call in the area.

Selby Williamson (5 goals), playing captain and team selector of the national side, was a great influence and one quickly realised you were in the wrong place for a pass when it went sailing past you into space – where one should have been! Jean du Plessis (4 goals), who plays for Urs Schwarzenbach’s ‘Black Bears’, is also local and he welcomed the chance to cruise around on his youngsters, educating me as to how much closer I would have to be if I stood any chance of hooking him. I would like to say that I did manage to steal the ball off him once, but I think it was more the exception proving the rule!

Sessions on the wooden (more metal actually) horse with Selby served to highlight the full range of shots and angles that could be achieved, proving how comfortable I had become with the classic four shots with only marginal variation in angle.

This was all the more apparent when Selby would pull off the most outrageous nearside tailed-backhand whilst galloping towards the backline, sending the ball travelling parallel along the backline towards the goal – I still
maintain there was witchcraft involved.

But, with practice and perseverance, and no small amount of colourful language, the angles started to come and with them an enhanced appreciation of an opponent’s options. This was all then put together during chukkas which increased in style, speed and quality as the days ticked by.

By the end of the 10 days, I was playing with a higher level of consistency and accomplishment than I had achieved by the end of last summer, setting me up well for my return to England and the start of our season.
None of this would have been possible without the very generous financial support, nor would it have been as rewarding and productive without Selby’s patience and tutelage – a big thank you to all involved.

Efg Private Bank Army Polo Scholarship – New Zealand

Published in Army Polo on 30 Nov 2011

Under the EFG Private Bank Army Polo Scholarship Captain Alex Eade set out for Witchwood Polo Farm, Waipukurau, Hawkes Bay, North Island, New Zealand. Here is his report:

I hit out for the sixth chukka with only a picture perfect moon for light. Playing two on two in the dark on a full pitch at 9pm was not something I had expected when landing in New Zealand only two hours ago. Thoughts of jet lag were banished and the phrase ‘go hard or go home’ offered as comfort.

Polo in New Zealand is organised slightly differently from the UK: most teams don’t have patrons and are selected by your club on merit at each handicap level. My aim was to play for Wanstead Polo Club in the historic and prestigious Savile Cup at the end of the season.

Consequently I found myself playing in a team with the Club President and Club Secretary the day after flying across the world for a month of intensive polo coaching. The tournament was the Denbeigh Cup and
pitted Wanstead at home against their arch rivals Rangitikei. No pressure then! Somehow the other three members of my team managed to gel and eventually win our division but I spent the first chukka some way off the pace, on several occasions even behind the umpires.

The polo was fast, very fast with barely a shot missed. The players are all talented and extremely skilful riders and utterly committed. At one point I was turned inside out by a man at least 75 years in age.

The celebration of our famous victory lasted longer than the games themselves with Export Gold becoming
a familiar friend. A day off on Monday was very welcome.

Buoyed by the weekend I strode up to the yard early on Tuesday morning to meet my host and coach for the next month, Mr Brett Hamer, a great 2 goal player and superb coach, having spent 18 seasons in the UK teaching mostly at the Royal County of Berkshire Polo Club.

He is a typical Kiwi, calm on the outside with a belly of fire on the pitch. He also does not mince his words. The programme he laid out doesn’t do justice to the phrase ‘back to basics’ but it was exactly what I needed to improve my horsemanship and all-round game. Eight ponies were suddenly ‘mine’ with instructions on exactly what I should work on.

So began my immersion into New Zealand polo and Witchwood Farm life. I exercised or schooled my string every day; we rode them on the beach, we herded cattle and sheep on horseback, we stick and balled, played
chukkas on the farm and at the Club; all under the ever watchful eye of Brett. Slowly but surely my riding improved, my hitting became more consistent and some matches didn’t seem quite so fast.

As we supped our electrolyte replacement fluids after Club Chukkas one evening, I was surprised but incredibly proud to hear my name called as part of the 0 goal team to compete in the black and white stripes at the Savile Cup. The Savile Cup is the national club championship and one of the oldest sporting trophies in New Zealand first presented by Capt Savile (ADC to the Governor General) in 1889. Always uttered in the hushed tone reserved for legend it takes place in early March each year and is a fantastic and fiercely competitive event.

In a series of close-fought and tough battles we managed to win our opening games and progress through to the semi-finals. Here we encountered the eventual winners and despite our best efforts succumbed to a well organised and skilful team from Kihikihi, the club hosting the tournament. These amazing memories will live with me forever.

My riding and polo have undoubtedly improved immeasurably and there is a possibility I might catch the handicap committee’s eye during the coming season in the UK. But I have gained much more than that. I have been privileged to experience New Zealand Polo and the way of life it brings at its very finest.

Without exception I was welcomed by friendly and engaging people; all passionate about their sport and keen to promote it at every level. My thoughts are already turning to how I can engineer a return trip next year.

Witchwood Polo Farm and Wanstead Polo Club provide the perfect setting for anyone looking for a polo holiday. It is a joint venture between Brett Hamer (2) and Martin ffrench Blake (4) who both offer lessons along with another resident professional player.

It was run at cost last year with excellent rates from around £500 per week and a range of options for grooming and accommodation. Discounts are available for groups, which they are particularly good at hosting and bringing on collectively as teams. The whole experience is highly recommended by all who have been lucky enough to visit so far.

For further details contact or

Malaysia & Singapore

Published in Army Polo on 18 Nov 2011

The Hackett Army team enjoyed a tour of Malaysia finished off with a match in Singapore.

An Army team of Col Michael O’Dwyer, Late IG, Major Rupert Lewis, Blues and Royals, Gaston Devrient, Army Coach and Tim Johnson HAC toured Malaysia as the guests of the Sultan of Johor.

The visit took place between 14 – 18 November before going onto Singapore for a match against the Singapore Polo Club.

The hosts were most generous and the team had the opportunity to make use of some of the best ponies in the Far East. The result was a victory for the Army Team by 4 to 2 1/2.

RAF In Argentina

Published in News on 31 Oct 2011

Flt Lt Rich Williams reports on his stay at San Sebastian Polo Club in Argentina.

As October started I was boarding my one stop flight to Argentina.  I’d escaped the UK and all of its October based misery for the sunshine and polo delights of Argentina.  Or so I thought… writes Flt Lt Rich Williams of 33 Squadron, RAF Benson.

Like most RAF arrivals I was late!  This mattered not in the relaxed land of Argentina where nothing gets going in a hurry and the night is just getting started at 2am.  So arrival drinks went on, late into the first night.

The next day arrived too soon and it was time to meet the grooms, my string and the rest of San Sebastian Polo Club members.  And in what better way than six chukkas played at around 7 goal standard in the midday heat.  This was my first introduction to polo in Argentina. The pace was hard, fast and aggressive and the ponies gave so much more than your average pony for hire, but demand so much more in return.  This was going to be my first lesson of many taken from my visit.

My host for the month was Argentine 2 goaler and San Sebastians resident polo coach, Matias Jolly Araya. His hair is as big as his personality, with a flamboyant flair on and off the polo field, I was rarely left unaware of what I had done wrong and spent most of my time on the receiving end of his a huge offside shot!

We spent the first week riding, schooling doing stick and ball and playing chukkas at the farm along side his brother Federico also 2 goals and other club members who ranged between 1 and 3 goals.  So already I had seen; the way that polo is played is faster, the ponies are a step up, the standard I was being exposed to was much higher and I always seemed to be at least a step behind the game!  A lot to learn and all perfect conditions for me to up my game!

The end of the first week was supposed to mark the first tournament. A 10 goal affair to be played at the local Jockey Club in Rosario.  However, torrential rain hit the region, the first of many down pours in my time in Argentina, flooding pitches and corrals, leaving conditions unplayable for days at a time.

During these wet weather days, we decided to travel to avoid the weather.  This was where staying with a well-connected local was the only way to travel.  On the first occasion, I was taken to La Pampas to stay on a vast cattle farm. We rode the local Criollo horses, learnt the art of the Asado and spent a few long cold nights on the hunt for the illusive wild boar.  Our second wet weather trip took us to the North of Argentina again to cattle country but this time to hunt amongst the islands and waterways.  The two day trip saw us bag two big crocs, two Carpincio and three wild boar, one of which was a boar piglet caught by hand…only in Argentina!

Back to the polo, the water eventually subsided and the pitches dried out.  We took this opportunity to make hay…a 6 goal tournament was scheduled at San Sebastian over two days, the RAF team lost their first game but learnt by their mistakes and convincingly won their second to take third place in the tournament.  The rain and lack of polo to start with meant that the club now offered daily chukkas with everyone as desperate as myself to play.  This all culminated in the last tournament, a three day 12 goal tournament played at a local private polo ground.

This 12 goal tournament marked my last few days in Argentina, up until this point we had played whenever the weather would allow but this still left weeks of frustration waiting for the rain to cease or the ground to dry.  Conditions were perfect, the pitch and surroundings immaculate and the competition fierce.

The first few matches for the RAF team didn’t go our way, the team was beaten by a single goal in the seventh chukka of both games to the eventual first and second place teams.  The last match was all to play for and as tight as the first two.  Lessons from the first match were learnt and applied leading the RAF team to run away with it in the last few chukkas in a fast and frantic flurry of goals.

Now what I haven’t told you is that my 12 goal career so far lasted for roughly 20 seconds of the first chukka of the first match.  I dismounted at the gallop, knocked myself unconscious where I stayed for the next 5-10 minutes and spent the next few days trying to remember my glorious performance!

Argentina is a truly beautiful country, the people are relaxed, the pace of life slow and the polo fast. My experience of it was only tarnished by the weather, with weeks of rainfall putting a full stop to any hopes of the polo everyday that I had hoped for.  Despite this the chance to play any polo anywhere is always a welcome one and in Argentina more so than most!  As with anything, you pay your money and take your chance.  And while I may not have played as much polo as I would have liked, the lessons learnt are invaluable.  Now just the small matter of putting them into practice for the RAF this coming season.

Major Generals Cup

Published in Army Polo on 02 Sep 2011

The HACKETT Army team won the Subsidary Cup at the 2011 Major Generals tournament held at Guards Polo Club at the beginning of September.

Major Generals Tournament

Published in Army Polo on 01 Sep 2011

The HACKETT Army team won the Subsidary Cup at the 2011 Major Generals tournament held at Guards Polo Club at the beginning of September.

Winter Polo Training

Published in News on 18 Jul 2011

Special deals are available to CSPA members for winter polo training through Martin ffrench-Blake, either in Argentina or New Zealand.

At La Esperanza, Coronel Suarez, about four hours south of Buenos Aires, the price per week is £1000 cash.

Dates available are between 8th January to 12th February and again from 23rd February to 10th March. There is now a direct flight with BA around £900 if booked early.

New Zealand offers a different polo playing opportunity. The costis £500 per week with food on top (self catering). Dates anytime at the moment on a first come basis. You will need the best part three weeks leave to make the most of New Zealand.

If interested, please register through your individual Service polo association. CSPA will offer £250 subsidy per individual undertaking this training. Individual Service Polo Associations may be able to offer more.


The Hogspear Captains & Subalterns Tournament

Published in News on 17 Jul 2011

SOME 17 teams competed in the Hogspear Captains & Subalterns 2011 Polo Tournament.

Two exciting days of competition but which of the 17 teams from all three Services covered themselves in glory.

Four teams competed in Division One, the same number again in Division Two, three in Division Three, another four in Division Four plus two more teams in Division Five.

The standard of polo over the weekend was high – indicating the success of coaching both by individual Service arrangements and by the standard of courses run at Tidworth Polo Club.

Competition was tight in Division One but the honours eventually went to QRH, with Infantry BG runners-up, the Royal Navy third and the RAF in fourth.

In Division Two it was the 9th/12th Lancers who were victorious over KRH in second, RY third and AGC(R) in fourth.

The three teams going head to head in Division Three were RA(B), LD and RLC with the Royal Artillery coming out on top.

There was more success for the RA – this time the their red team – in Division Four. They triumphed over AMS, 1RHA and AGC(B).

Division Four winners were the Army Novice teamwho beat RLC by six goals to two to lift the Grenadier Cup.

In Division Five, Edinburgh UOTC beat Bristol UOTC.