Playing in Perth was a super trip. RMPA got an invite to form a team for the South East Asian Polo Challenge. We decided to include players from Singapore and invited Ali Reda and Patrick Furlong to join Saladin Mazlan and Abdul Rashid Hasnan in a 8-goal team. Unfortunately Ali Reda could not make the trip and I was promoted from Official Gofer to No 1.
We all arrived in Perth on Thursday. John Fischer met us at the airport. That night we had dinner at the Woodbridge Hotel, very near the Fischer’s Guildford house.
Derek Reid, back in Australia from Tianjin Metropolitan Polo Club came to meet us, and John, Derek and myself talked late into the night.
The next day we had stick and ball sessions planned. Rashid and Saladin went to Brett Kylie’s Serpentine Polo Club in the morning. After trying some horses there, they had time to stop at Rockingham for lunch on the beach before we had an afternoon stick and ball at Duncraig Stud on other ponies.
We had time for a quick shower at home before returning to Duncraig for a lovely welcome cocktail, hosted by the Perth Polo Club at the Prendiville’s lovely house. Natasha arrived that afternoon but went to meet some friends. She joined us for polo on Saturday and Sunday.
On Saturday there were C and B grade games before we had game on the superb Swan Valley Polo Club No 1 ground at Duncraig Stud.
We played Alka, a hard hitting 6-goal team. The SEA All-Stars, as we were called, had never played together before, but once Saladin and Patrick clicked, we were on our way. On the superb Wintergreen Cooch turf we took control and ran away 7-1 winners.
The next day we knew would be different, against a very good 8-goal side that featured Hugo Fischer, much improved by two long stints in Argentina. 3-goal Kiwi Ru Barlow, the evergreen Sam Hamersley and young Zac Johnson.
We had plenty of support at the ground as Malaysian/Singapore legend Billy Bagby and his wife Trish came out to support us. Billy had been champion jockey as an apprentice, steeplechased, trained and was Polo Captain of the Singapore Polo Club. He had worked for Royal Johor before emigrating to Perth.
The game was fast and furious, as we expected. We had control of the game and led 4-3 in the penultimate chukka. Rashid and Ru Barlow had a big ride off that left Ru on the ground. He was substituted by the big hitting Andre Gebbie, who slipped into a traditional No 4 role. It seem to work better for Perth and we finished the game tied at 5-5.
As it was a friendly international, we chose not to play a supplementary chukka.
If you think about it, drawing with Perth when we were on borrowed ponies and they on ponies they knew, it was still a very good result for us. The Perth polo friends we have are quite exceptional in that we had a very good string of horses. Some were loaned and some were rented for us.
Still, there is nothing like playing on your own ponies. In the old days, visitors on borrowed ponies would be dropped by two goals on their handicap. This is not practiced nowadays, but it does acknowledge the inherent advantage the home team enjoys, not only in horses but knowing the grounds.
Yet, in two South East Asian Polo Challenges in 2016, which Malaysia won, and 2018, which we as the South East Asian All-Stars drew, the home side has yet to win.
Nevertheless, playing in the South East Asian Polo Challenge in Perth brought home to me my age. At 57, I don’t have the reflexes or the physical right to do this anymore. And so I won’t. I am now officially retired from international polo.
It was a great way to go out, playing with friends old and new, young and younger. I’ve had a great international career but I’ll call time on it now. I’ll stick to club polo from now on.
It’s time for the younger ones to have their go. I pushed Rashid to make a few speeches, which I think he enjoyed doing. All part of growing up a polo player.
Socially it was a fantastic time. Perth Polo Club President John Fischer went out of his way to make sure we were really well treated. Natasha and I have made so many friends there that we really had a good time. Not only were there polo friends. She has a chance to catch up with some school friends who now live there, and so did I.
Thank you Perth, for another great tour.