January 14 - 20, 2018: Issue 343

Polo by the Sea 2018: Over a Hundred Years of Loving This Game in Pittwater

Angus Campbell - NSW Team, Polo by the Sea 2018
For everyone who loves horses, which is most of us here in Pittwater, the annual Polo by the Sea has become a Summer treat and feast for the eyes where glorious ponies with skilled riders showcase an ancient game in spectacular fashion - albeit on a reduced sized field.

In between games visitors stomp on divots, take part in fashion parades and dashes for prizes on field or listen to great live music by some of the best contemporary songsters. There was even a wedding this year!

The first Polo by the Sea, run in 2015, gave added insight in the team behind Polo by the Sea letting us know the first polo game in New South Wales was played at Moore Park in 1874, where the then 14th Governor of New South Wales,  Sir Hercules George Robert Robinson, 1st Baron Rosmead, GCMG, PC, was a player:

THIS game, which has become so popular in England of late years as a military sport, first introduced there by regiments returned from foreign service, had its opening day in New South Wales on Thursday, the locus being Moore Park, and the game played by the newly organised Polo Club, under the active support and patronage of his Excellency the Governor, who for tho fostering of all manly exorcises and sports has had few if any equals hero, and certainly no superiors. Polo is, in fact, hockey on horseback ; . and a rare good exciting game it is, too, requiring both horses and men to be in good condition, as well as understanding the game. The horses used should be good, strong, active cobs, of 14 hands or 14½ ; and the riders require not only spurs to make the ponies more obedient to will, but also good double bridles to rein in their chargers, and bring them on their haunches if necessary. By this means the horses will in a short time become so clever as to turn as quickly as the cleverest old stock horse. The ground marked out on Thursday was about two hundred yards long, and about one hundred wide; bounded on either side by light poles and flags, with goal-posts st either end and opposite corners; and sides having been chosen, the one distinguished by red scarfs and the other by white, the play consisted in the one side driving the ball through their opponents' goal-posts. The balls used were light wooden ones of three inches, or three and a half inches in diameter ; the sticks being pieces of light bamboo, from five to six feet, having a foot, or light flat piece of wood about ten inches long, tenanted, and tied on at the one end, at about right angles to the handle, on one side of which, about three fourths of the foot projects.". The new club, who introduced the game, consisted of the Governor, Captain St. John, several military officers now staying at Government House, Mr. G. E. Want, Mr. W. Max well, Mr. Morrisett, and one or two others ; and considering it was the first trial, the ponies behaved very well, and the riders showed some good play. Shortly after play commenced, which of course it did in the centre of the ground, the "reds" succeeded, without much trouble, in driving the ball through the goal posts at the north-western corner ; and this was followed by almost as easy a score for the "whites" at the south-east, near the wild fowl reserve. Then there were some changes among the sides; among others, his Excellency exchanging the red for the white scarf-an alteration which was not long without visible effect. The next bout was exceedingly lively, and gave some very exciting play; for the reds, after some hard fighting, brought the ball down close into the north-west corner, and looked certain for a goal. The whites, however, rallied splendidly, and chiefly by the excel-lent play of Sir Hercules Robinson, ably seconded by Mr. Morrisett, got the bad away little by little, till they reached the centre of the ground, whore a regular hand-to-hand struggle took place ; but the whites still stuck to their advantage, and, after some capital play, took the ball triumphantly down to their haven, the south-east corner. About this time both men and horses were in need of a rest, in which they indulged for some minutes ; and it was found that there had been great destruction among the sticks, though no horse accidents. The game had an especial interest, being under the management of Captain St. Quintin, who marked out the ground, and who, we believe, was among the first to introduce polo into England. The affair had been kept very quiet, or there would have been many more people on the ground ; but although the game is wonderfully exciting to horses as well as riders, bystanders can see but little, unless they have the advantage of an elevated place to see from. It is fair, however, to warn people who go another time, that they will do well to keep outside the flags, as a crack from the polo ball would be any thing but pleasant. Of the play, we should fancy that the Governor and Mr. Morrisett had the host of it ; but perhaps they and Captain St. John were better mounted than most others, which also gave them some advantage ; but their play was marked by fearlessness and excellent strategy, both sine qua, non qualifications.
Polo. (1874, July 25 - Saturday). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 30. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70483701 

The members of the new Polo Club had their second tourney yesterday afternoon, on Moore Park, commencing at 3 o'clock ; but the attendance of spectators was ; only small. The muster of players only allowed of  four a side ; but these, for the most part, were right good players, and the game was much more interesting and better contested than on Thursday. The competitors consisted of His Excellency the Governor, Captain St. John, Captain St. Quintin, Messrs. Hutchinson, E. Lee, G. J. Want, Thacker, H. Smith, and A. Macdonald, at first; but as Captain St. John's pony didn't behave well, the Captain wisely gave up the game in the middle of it. At the first onset, two goals were obtained in a very short time by the side which played for the south-eastern goal; but after that there was some rare play close to the north-western posts ; and although the 'Reds' succeeded on several occasions in fretting the ball behind the goal line, they could not, for a long time, put it in at the exact spot. Hard play tired many of the riders, who were not in condition ; Captain St. John mounted Mr. Lee's pony, and Mr. H. Smith exchanged his original mount for the one given up by Captain St. John ; and the fun was, fast and furious. At length Mr. Want, who had by four remarkably good consecutive hits just previously put the ball behind the goal line, made a successful effort ; and, after one vigorous hit, quietly landed it between the north-western posts, mating well earned goal for the 'lleda.' The ends were changed, and play proceeded merrily till after 5 o'clock ; but by this time both players and ponies had had almost quantum, stiff. 

Many players deserve honorable mention. His Excellency, as on Thursday, was conspicuous for hooking the ball out of a melee, and getting it away towards his goal, while at the same time nursing his pony; in which last great desideratum, Mr. Thacker also seems an adept. Mr. A. Macdonald is a good player, and did great service indeed, being well mounted on the pony ridden by Mr. Morrisett: on Thursday. Mr. G. F. Want was remarkably good, and his black bobtail, though apparently not up to his weight, was one of the best ponies in the field. Though last, not least, it did one's heart good to see Captain St. Quintin get the ball into play, and follow it up with hit after hit, away from the opposite side; bat Mr. Hill's bay pony he was riding, though good, fast, safe, and strong, is as yet too impetuous, and often lost for his rider the well-deserved results of excellent play. Captain St. Quintin not only understands the game, and plays it excellent well, bat he is a fine, accomplished horseman, who seldom gets into difficulties ; and, when by accident, the stick does fly out of his hand, he is very clever at regaining: it, Mr. Hutchinson, who rode a very hard-pulling pony, that was difficult to manage, was always in the thick of the fray, when possible. And with so many really accomplished players to learn from, the ranks of 'Polo' should soon have large reinforcements. There were no accidents of consequence; though the pace some or the players followed up the ball at was a caution. POLO. (1874, July 28 - Tuesday). Evening News (Sydney, NSW : 1869 - 1931), p. 2. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article107147676 

THE introduction of the game of Polo into the Australias, and the establishment of the first regular Polo Club in the southern hemisphere, are quite reasons sufficient for giving this week a drawing which gives some idea of the play, and accompanying it with a copy of the rules of the game, and a list of officials of the new club. There is also the additional inducement for making Polo prominent, to be found in the fact that to no country in the world is it more adapted than to Australia, and that no people in the world are more adapted than Australians to play it well. Here we have a climate well suited for breeding horses of all kinds: and there’s no doubt, whatever that "ponies" are to be found here for playing "Polo" on, quite as easily as big horses like "Prodigious" and Prior for jumping the sticks. Here we have the youngsters (boys not colts) who only want the horse to be shown them that they will not or can not fido; and these are the makings of many Polo clubs, wherever eight or more can he found in one place. Here we have the ground and the climate, both well suited for playing this game - the former seldom too soft and slippery, the latter good enough for cricket all the year round ; and if with all these and more natural advantages, "Polo" does not flourish, it will simply be that the people don't know what sports and pastimes are best suited to "the land they live in." 

His Excellency Sir Hercules Robinson gives his patronage to this game.... 

The new club, as will be seen below is started under good auspices ; having the Governor as President, Colonel Richardson and Messrs. E. K. Cox, G. F. Want, and Edward Lee as committee ; and Mr. J. de V, Lamb as hon. Secretary and Treasurer. There are fifteen ordinary and three honorary members; among. the latter being Captain St. Quintin, of the 10th Hussars, who is a remarkably fine player, as well as a good horseman, and to whom New South Wales is indebted for the introduction of this well-adapted game. Your readers are aware, before this, that " Polo " is " Hockey on horseback," that it was first introduced into England by officers of cavalry regiments returned from foreign service ; and further, I will only say, that the Club are to be seen at play on Moore Park on every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday afternoon, at 3. The following are the rules under which the game is played; and the accompanying engraving sufficiently explains the ground which has to be marked out.

Polo. (1874, August 15). Australian Town and Country Journal (Sydney, NSW : 1870 - 1907), p. 21. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article70484294 

Polo by the Sea isn't the first instance of a polo field and players and games in Pittwater as G S Brock, the owner and builder of The Oaks at Mona Vale, soon to be known as La Corniche, was a passionate player as was the father of Don and Australian aviation legend and Bayview resident Sir P. G. 'Bill' Taylor -  P. T. Taylor. 

Don Taylor (son of W D M Taylor) I can tell you who most of them are:  it’s the Taylor family without their mother. From the right is W. D.M., my father, sitting on the fence is Patrick Gordon, who preferred to be called ‘Bill’, that’s an unknown, the girl is Norah, their sister, who looks like she’s about 13 or 14 there, the man in the white cap is P. T. Taylor their father, he was keen on polo, then another unknown and the one on the extreme left is probably Ken. Photo courtesy Taylor family.

The Oaks, Mona Vale - view over Polo Field and north towards Newport, courtesy State Library of NSW. Also visit: Mona Vale Training Grounds - From Lancers on Horses to Lasses on Transport Courses. 

The dream came to an end for Mr. Brock when the slated tramway to Narrabeen came a few years too late to make his grand premises accessible during the early era of Pittwater when this place was still considered rural - although there is reason to dream a few polo pratices took place just over a hundred years prior to this year's games:


On Monday last the Sydney Squadron of Lancers returned from a three days' staff ride in the vicinity of Pittwater. The work was undertaken on a tactical scheme connected with the landing of an enemy, the whole being under the command and supervision of Lieutenant M'Mahon. Organised as a complete regiment, the squadron left Sydney about 9 a.m. on Saturday, on a rapid march on Bay View, two squadrons travelling via Gordon and Tumbledown Dick Mountain, and two via Manly and Narrabeen, the advanced parties, by means of signalling communication, coming simultaneously Into touch with each other in the scrub behind Rocklily. All ranks had duties of a higher nature than their existing rank, particular attention being paid to the issue of written orders, the forwarding of reports, and sketches In the field. Tents were not taken, the intention being to camp in the open, but owing to the wet weather, the men were billeted in one of Mr. Brock, of Mona Vale's, buildings, the 90 horses being picketed in the rear. MILITARY. (1906, October 4). The Sydney Morning Herald(NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 9. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14828169

The polo ponies and Jersey cattle, forming the studs at "The Oaks," Mona Vale, Pitt-water, were dispersed yesterday afternoon under the hammer by Messrs. Maccabe and Dodds, Sydney. The sale took place along-side the polo ground of the picturesque residence of Mr. G. S. Brock, and attracted a fair number of buyers from Sydney, as well as a good sprinkling of local residents. The polo ponies catalogued comprised upwards of 37 head, and the Jerseys-including four steers-17 head. Although the ponies figured first In the catalogue they were sold last. The Jerseys were all run into a paddock, and a start was made with the bull Duke of Melbourne, a five-year-old son of the Government-imported bull Melbourne-Kitty, g d, by Favourite-Baronne, Effingham Duke, imported by the late Hon. James White. Buyers' ideas of values wore not high, and bidding was not too brisk, except on odd lots. The noble Duke-a real fine Jersey bull-was started at five guineas, and knocked down at ten guineas. A son of the Duke's, out of Rosy, Rosy Dawn III., Boatswain, Bessie Black, Pomonas Dally, imp., realised half the price of his sire. The top price of the cows was nine and a half guineas, and the top price for heifers was eight and a half guineas; while the four young steers went to the local butcher at 39s per head.

The polo ponies were led out in a ring, and the first to appear was Queenie, a bay mare, very good in harness, and all she fetched was six guineas. Another bay mare, Reckless, an excellent polo pony, was knocked down for eight guineas. Pony, foaled a year later than Reckless, namely 1899, also a good polo pony, realised 10 guineas. Carblnesso, a brown mare, with colt at foot, by Souvenir, was passed in at 20 guineas. That grand polo pony stallion Souvenir, out of Annie, by imported Arab, out at Manaroo, Arab mare, was started at 20 guineas, and went trotting along up to 40 guineas. While at that figure Mr. Mackellar remarked that quite recently he sold a sister to Souvenir at 60 guineas. However, as no additional bid was forthcoming the crack pony stallion was passed in. 
POLO PONIES AND JERSEYS. (1907, April 11). The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW : 1842 - 1954), p. 4. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article14835512 

Polo by the Sea in 2016 had to be cancelled due to those Summer downpours that in Winter close all local playing fields.

Those fearless players were back in 2017 though, thrilling the local audiences, whether they were wearing thongs and shorts or dresses and heels, alike. Allowing residents access to a viewing spot from the northern end of the field has remained part of what Polo by the Sea is about.

This year, the third event played locally, was no exception. Part of what was raised is being donated to Palm Beach SLSC and the club also had a marquee this year as well as members acting as on-field linesmen and women. Local businesses and people were on the field and side field en masse - some in our t-shirts and sandshoes, others glammed up in Summer hats and spiffy dresses.

On field a game between the Manly Spirits Team and Team Westfield Warringah Mall continued the 2017 focus on keeping it local. This was followed by the New South Wales versus Victoria. Both matches featured some of the best polo players there are, the second game having Alec White, a member of the Australian representative team, playing yesterday for NSW, and Michael Maritz keeping the pace for Victoria.

As we still have living generations who recall riding from Palm Beach to Frenchs Forest, and current riding clubs and riders within Pittwater, along with many of us who remember all the stories our grandmothers and grandfathers tell us of their horses (and how much they were part of everyday life and alike that other best friend the dog to those whom they belonged to) Polo by the Sea will remain something residents look forward to - we have a long history of doing so.

Some of this year's action runs below - for those who want to see more, we've loaded up an album for you HERE.
Palm Beach SLSC Members - goal score keepers and linesmen and women.
Report and photos by A J Guesdon, 2018