Polocrosse is a team sport that is a combination of polo and lacrosse. It is played outside, on a field, on horseback. Each rider uses a cane or fibreglass stick to which is attached a racquet head with a loose, thread net, in which the ball is carried. The ball is made of sponge rubber and is approximately four inches across. The objective is to score goals by throwing the ball between the opposing team's goal posts. Unlike polo, players are allowed only to play one horse, except in the case of injury. There is no restriction on the horse's height, although polocrosse horses are generally smaller than 16hh. Horses of all breeds play polocrosse and the Australian Stock Horse is the most popular breed playing in Australia. Stallions are not permitted to play.
A team consists of six players, divided into two sections of three who each play either 2, 3 or 4 chukkas of six to eight minutes, depending on the rules of the tournament, with the two sections from each team alternating on and off the field each chukka. A match comprises four, six or eight chukkas. The three players in each section play the position of a No. 1, attack, a No. 2, midfield (a combination of defence and offence), or a No. 3, defence. The field is 60 by 160 yards (55 m × 146 m), with three separate areas. 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 these areas. The middle area is 100 yards long. The line separating the goal scoring and centre areas is called the penalty or thirty-yard line. Goal posts are eight feet apart. To score, the ball must be thrown from outside an 11-yard semicircle in front 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 allowed 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 that 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 1’s in front followed by the No 2’s and then the No 3’s. 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.
Once either team scores a goal, the game begins 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. Thus, 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/helmet can lead to awarding a free goal to the affected team. If a player continues to commit fouls after due cautions by the umpire, committed a particularly dangerous or deliberate foul, or generally behaves dangerously, the umpire can dismiss the player from the field.
The game begins again with a line up, if a horse deflects the ball out of bounds 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.