Harry Kirk is captain of the NSW Mixed Junior Polocrosse team, which won the Nationals in Perth last month. He has won many individual trophies and awards for his horsemanship and has become a sought after commentator as well, commentating at many carnivals across NSW.
>When did your interest in horses first begin?
I think I must have been born with a love of horses in my blood.
My mother is a member of the Grills family from Guyra, who have been great horsemen and polocrosse players all their lives. My father is a descendent of the Kelly family from Upper Horton, who have been among the top horsemen for many years. My nan (who is a Kelly) tells me I sit like a Grills and ride like a Kelly.
> Tell us about the game of Polocrosse?
Polocrosse is played in all states in Australia and many countries throughout the world, including the USA, United Kingdom, New Zealand, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and Ireland. A world cup is hosted every four years, with the next one in the UK.
Polocrosse is a combination of Polo and Lacrosse; it is our own sport, originating in Australia in the last century.
There are six players per side, with three players taking the field at any one time. The number one throws goals and the number three defends, with the two a middleman. My preferred position is a three, however I have played mostly one until this year, where I played a three in Western Australia.
It is a very fast game and can be very harrowing on your horse, as well as the players.
Because of the intensity of the game, there are two sections, who play 8 minute chuccas each. Training for the season begins in February, and competitive games and Carnivals usually commence early April and continue through to the end of September.
> What is involved in the preparation of your horses for the season each year?
A player is only as good as his horse. It is therefore very important that my horse is prepared for the season in the best possible way.
The horses are referred to as high performance horses and therefore need a special diet high in energy. It is important that they do not become overweight and are fit at all times. The horses are kept clipped during the season to prevent them becoming overheated during games and are usually kept rugged at all other times.
During a game horses hooves are covered with a protective bellboot and their lower legs are bandaged with white bandages for protection against being kicked by other competing horses.
In preparing for, and during the season I ride my horse every afternoon when I get home from school. I have two horses, and I ride one, leading the second one – giving them about 12 km of fast work. After the ride I then need to hose them down to cool them off. Some afternoons I take only one of my horses; I take my racquet and ball and polish up on my skills.
Training is very intensive and usually provides a lot of enjoyment. After the Nationals in Western Australia, I sold Clyde, whom we bought from Chris Bourke of Armidale about 5 years ago. We sold him to my cousins, Jock and Alec Grills. I know they will have as much fun and learn as much from him as I did. He took me through sub-juniors and juniors until I got Highway, whom I played in WA.
> You have been very successful in Polocrosse over the past two years. What are some of your achievements?
In April 2007 I was first selected to play for NSW in the Tri State Competition in the third side; we came 3rd. Then in August 2007 I represented New England in Grafton in the A grade Junior mixed competition. In January 2008 I was fortunate to travel to New Zealand, representing NSW. We played in the President’s 6 and won over the NZ Juniors 13/11.
In April 2008 I was selected in the top 3 boys from NSW in the Tri State competition, but we were defeated by Queensland in the final by 5 goals.
In June 2008 I was the captain of the New England Zone team playing at Muswellbrook. At this match selections were made for the Nationals in Perth being held in October. I was very proud to have been selected as Captain of the Mixed Junior team to represent NSW in the Perth Nationals.
Going to Perth has to have been one of the greatest experiences in my life. The trip over took a week, travelling daily distances of
400 km and 600 km. We usually stopped at around 2:00pm each day in time to exercise the horses and give them a break from the monotony after so much travelling.
At Port Augusta we met up with family, my uncle Charlie, Sarah, and Jim and Lucy, who were also playing in the Nationals. My cousin Abbott Grills also went with us; he was selected in the Open Men’s side, which puts him among the top players in this country. Our convoy consisted of 10 trucks from west and southern NSW. We arrived at Brigadoon, an hour from Perth, on Tuesday 7th October, having a few days to settle in before competition commenced on Monday 13th October.
Our first game was against the Northern Territory, whom we convincingly defeated by 10 goals. Our next game was against WA, whom we only beat by 2 goals. However we led by 9 goals going into the last chucca. QLD were no match for us; we defeated them by 10 goals – which not only cemented our place in the lead to play Victoria in the Grand Final, but made up for our losses at the start of the year. We were victorious over Victoria, defeating them 22 goals to 11 – giving our team from NSW the National Title and going through the week unbeaten. NSW won 6 of the 9 finals, competing in all of them. We were a very dominant state – something to be proud of.
I was the only player from New England zone selected to go to WA. Other members of my team came from the North Coast, Hunter Valley, Oberon, Dubbo, and Narrabri.
I am proud to have captained my team and brought home the ultimate prize. Even though it was a long way to travel, the experience was excellent. This is a big and beautiful country, and I am so glad to have had the opportunity to see just a small slice of it.
I am very grateful to my parents, Michael and Stacey for their never-ending support and confidence in my polocrosse. Mr Guest, Headmaster of The Armidale School and my teachers who have given me wonderful support and encouragement, enabling me to miss some class work to participate in my great sport and then helping me catch up on work.
There are many, many people who I could thank who have helped me over my polocrosse career, but the list goes on. But I must mention my uncle Charlie Grills, who has had the greatest influence on my Polocrosse. He has always been behind me with great support.
Closely following is Chris Bourke, who plays for the Guyra Polocrosse club. He has taken a great interest in my Polocrosse and me.
There is also Ross Turnbull from Werris Creek, who has taken me in, and I have spent many days at his place learning as much as I can about the game. Ross is very willing to share his knowledge.
> Thank you Harry.