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Mallets at the ready for Poverty Bay Open

DOZENS of polo players will saddle up for this weekend's Poverty Bay Open at Bushmere Park.

Fourteen teams will compete across three grades in the annual Harvest Transport Poverty Bay Polo Club Open Tournament on the outskirts of Gisborne.

Immediate past president of Poverty Bay Polo Club, Neville Clark, who will play for Poverty Bay's top team, said the tournament would be a great occasion for the sport's enthusiasts and for people curious about it.

Clark said the venue was ideal for spectators and a commentator would keep them up to speed with the action.

There was no charge for spectators and families were welcome to bring a picnic.

Each player will bring four or five horses, so he expects about 250 polo ponies to be here.

“The polo will be pretty smart this year,” Clark said.

“The quality of teams is really good and the polo ponies are exceptional to watch.”

In the 6-goal grade, the top division, Clark says the Hawke's Bay team will be hard to beat.

His son, Cody Clark, will play for Waimai, a club west of Hamilton.

Clark senior says Waimai should be handy, as they are a well-balanced team.

The Kay brothers — Stephen and Paul — are coming from Kihikihi. They are from a family who have a long association with the sport.

Poverty Bay's top team — Burne McNeil, Jessie McNeil, Rob Telfer and Clark — will compete in the 0-goal grade.

The Bay's B side — Laura Clark, Jenny Shanks, Billy Hawkings-Byass — will be in the minus-goal grade.

Polo players are ranked on a handicap system, which helps to create even contests.

The top players in the world have a rating of 10 and beginners are at -2, and the handicap of the team is the sum total rating of its players.

The Poverty Bay tournament starts with three games tomorrow afternoon.

The club is hosting a barbecue on Saturday night and the event will finish with finals on Sunday.

Pursuing possession: Joey Malone (left), from Hawke's Bay, and Poverty Bay No.3 Rob Telfer pursue the ball at the Poverty Bay Open last year. The 2020 open starts tomorrow at Bushmere Park. Picture by Paul Rickard