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England might be home to some of the best polo players on the planet but when they take the field at Windsor Polo Club next month, they better bring their A-Game.
Aussie captain Glen Gilmore and star Alec White both say they'll be holding nothing back when vying for the Mountbatten Memorial Trophy at the 111th Polo International on April 6. The 24 goal match will be fought tooth and nail.
Unlike most Australian rep teams, that want to show up their Commonwealth brothers out of a friendly sense of oneupsmanship, our top polo players have an even bigger score to settle.
Last time the English were here they gave our boys a serve and went home victorious. This year, the Aussies are hellbent on sending them home empty handed.
"We really need to push it as hard as we can..." Gilmore said.
"When you're representing your country there's absolutely no question about it. You have to absolutely throw everything at it and win at all costs… we're not there to mess around."
"The English haven't been out for a few years but they beat us pretty well last time so there's a bit of revenge to be had, for sure," White added.
"This is going to be a big contest. It's always a big rivalry against the English so it will be a big highlight for the year for polo in Australia."
Both Gilmore and White know all too well what they're up against. Both are highly sort after, world-class athletes that have spent many fine summer days belting it out on some of the most hallowed grounds in England.
Gilmore has played more than 25 summers in the UK and has even shared the field with Prince Charles, Prince Philip, Prince William and Prince Harry. He's met the Queen on a number of occasions. In fact, he even ran the Guard's Polo Club at Windsor Park.
White has also spent the last ten years travelling the globe and competing at the most elite level, including in the English High Goal and was part of two Queen's Cup winning teams. However none of that will matter when they don the green and gold.
Aside from White and Gilmore, the Aussie squad will consist of Matt Grimes 6g, Jack Archibald 6g, Dirk Gould 5g and Jake Daniels 5g. The Flannels English Team on the other hand will include Jack Richardson 7g, James Harper 7g, Jimbo Fewster 3g and Tommy Beresford 6g.
Promoters are already plugging the match up as "The Wallabies of Polo". Gilmore and White agree it's going to be a spectacle. Australia's best polo ponies will be assembled to carry the players into battle.
Both Gilmore and White have a lot in common. Both are massive horse lovers, both were sports mad teenagers and both come from big polo families. In fact, Gilmore's father and son have also represented Australia.
However, the pair also have something far more fundamental in common, which challenges a lot of misconceptions about the sport.
While many average people think of polo as being a cuffs and collars game for rich folk, nothing could be further from the truth. Both men grew up on rural properties and came from humble beginnings. It was their talent and passion that ultimately propelled them to the highest level in their sport.
They're passionate about polo. They spend a lot of time promoting it and helping to get more young people involved. They want to see their fellow countryman reach the pinnacle of the sport and pursue every opportunity available to them.
"There are plenty of people in Australia that are more than happy to help new players get into it," White said.
"You can take lessons and compete in matches, no matter where you're at, whether you're a beginner or a professional. It's all right there."
Ultimately though, they know the only way the sport will continue to grow is if more people engage with it. It is a great spectator sport, they say, and, the 111th International is going to be a show stopper.
"You've got to be there to experience it," White said.
"You've got to see the horses fly past and hear the guys yelling at each other to get to a pass or mark the opposition. And, you'll see the contact that is made is just as big as any rugby tackle," he continued.
"You'll see the athleticism it takes to control the horses and hit the ball simultaneously, it takes a lot of skill… (and) being a test match it's going to be fast and furious."
The event will run from 11am to 6pm with three games of polo. Showcasing Australia’s young up and coming talent with the Under 21 Colts match from 11.30am, followed by a Ladies International match at 1pm. The main event will take place at 3.30pm.
General Admission starts at $40 per person; VIP Garden Party Marquee start at $200pp; Car Boot Picnic Bookings start at $500 for 20 guests; and coach transfer from CBD costs $50 return.
Tickets can be purchased from www.polointernational.com.au
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