The venue for the Inter-Association Championships this year was a real change of scenery for the participating players. The champs were last held at the Clareville Showgrounds, Carterton, in 1982. New Zealand Polocrosse players do not often get the opportunity to play on quality fields such as were available at Carterton and, apart from getting a little slippery in places, they stood up well to the wet conditions.
The first division was contested by eight teams and was a section of two halves, with the top four teams being a cut above the rest. Central Plateau 1, Waikato 1, Auckland Provincial and King Country 1 won their first round games easily but players from all four of the teams knew that their semi-final games would be much harder.
The first two teams to meet in the semi finals were Central Plateau 1 and Waikato 1. The Central Plateau players got off to a brilliant start and were 9 goals ahead after the second chukka. The third chukka was a two all draw and the Waikato players made a valiant effort to claw their way back into the game in the following three chukkas. The experienced Central Plateau players made them pay for some silly mistakes though and Central Plateau ensured a finals berth with a score of 20-14.
Auckland Provincial met King Country 1 in the second semi final. Auckland Provincial was tipped as being the stronger team but the King Country players were determined not to give in without a struggle. The King Country first chukka were much stronger than their Auckland Provincial counterparts but the roles were reverses for the second chukkas. Shane Neil, at number one for King Country, keeps improving from game to game and his more relaxed attitude about the game is paying dividends for him. While King Country actually won 4 of the six chukkas in this game, Auckland Provincial won the second chukka by 6-1 and the fourth by 5-2 to put them six goals ahead at the end of the fourth. The King Country players made a valiant attempt to over come the deficit in the last two chukkas but could only pull back to within two goals by the final whistle.
Auckland Provincial lined up for the final with Shaye Williams, Harrison Semenoff and Rick Murray, 1st chukka, against Tony Schrafft, Sonny Jobe (59 years old the previous day), and Steve Watson for Central Plateau.
The first chukka was very much goal for goal, but Central Plateau were able to go one up after some good centre field work.
The second sections were Jamie Morice, Ryk Roodman and Greg Gloyn for Auckland Provincial, and Russell Tye, Aaran Griffiths and Maurice Thomas for Central Plateau. Jamie Morice was riding a comparatively inexperience horse as he had had to withdraw his good horse due to injury, but the Auckland Provincial section was still confident that they had the better of the slightly less experienced Central Plateau Chukka. This chukka also went the way of Central Plateau with an identical score to the first.
The first sections came on again for the third chukka and good teamwork by the Central Plateau trio and a very slick intercept by Tony Schrafft enabled them to score a 3-1 chukka. Central Plateau led by 15-8 at the end of the fourth chukka, after they were able to capitalise on the problems that Jamie was having with his inexperienced horse.
Auckland Provincial changed their game plan in the fifth chukka and number three Rick Murray stuck like glue to Central Plateau number one Tony Schrafft. Tony had to work hard in the area for his two goals while Shaye Williams was able to play the running game that he enjoys so much, to go one up in the chukka and close the gap to six goals.
Auckland Provincial changed Jamie Morice to two and put Ryk Roodman to one for the sixth chukka and this tactic worked for them, along with some hard marking, to pull back another two goals.
Central Plateau put the pressure on again in the next two chukkas and, in spite of two silly mistakes by their number three in the eighth chukka; they came out comfortable winners by 25-18.
This final was an excellent game to watch, exciting for the spectators and played in very good spirit.
Waikato 2 won the plate final in the first division in a game, which was a repeat of last year's 2nd division final except for the weather. Their opposition was Hawkes Bay 1 and the final score was 11-6 to Waikato.
Best number one was awarded to Russell Tye, best number two Aaran Griffiths, and best number three was Rick Murray.
Best pony was Russell Tye's Touch Up.
The ladies final was between old rivals King Country and Waikato; the only two unbeaten teams after the round robin play offs. King Country took to the field with Shelley King, Kim Thompson and Marnie Wenn in the first chukka against a very experienced Waikato chukka of Sue Hill, Jacqui Teague and Bronwyn Dempster.
Waikato got off to a good start and ended the first chukka 4-1 ahead. The slippery ground surface and driving rain made playing conditions difficult for both teams and a great deal depended on which horses coped better.
The second sections were Megan Gilbert, Cookie Heslop and Catherine Fisher for Waikato and Katherine Cave, Kelly Boyd and Pascale Gower for King Country. The second chukka was the only chukka that the King Country players were able to win. Waikato players were quick onto the loose ball in mid field but were not able to convert it into goals and the chukka score was 3-1 to King Country.
The third and fourth chukkas were a romp ahead for Waikato. Pascale Gower was not up to her usual standard of play and seemed to be missing her top pony. The fifth sections went on with the score at 14-8 for Waikato. Waikato lost the plot a little in this chukka. Jacqui Teague picked up some great ball in the centre field but the passes to her number one went astray. Sue Hill took a crunching fall when she asked her horse for a sudden check in the area and the pony's back legs went out from under her on the slippery ground. Horse and rider were OK however and the game continued after a change of saddle. King Country was able to draw this chukka 2 all.
The three Waikato players in the sixth and final chukka showed some excellent teamwork and the final score was 20-11 to Waikato in a reversal of last year's result.
Best number one was Sue Hill, best two Jacqui Teague and best three was Bronwyn Dempster. Best pony was Sue Hill's Skoota.
Central Plateau 2 won the second division but did not have an easy run through the round robin competition, three of their games being very close indeed. Their first game of the competition against Poverty Bay 3 ended in a draw and was won by Central Plateau in extra time play off.
They won their next two games against Poverty Bay 2 and Wairarapa by two goals. Most of the games were very close in this division, the runner up had to be decided on a goal count back, and it went to Poverty Bay 2.
Best number one was Courtenay Ribbon (Poverty Bay) best two, Seonaid Tye(Central Plateau) and best three was Ben Akuhata-Brown (Poverty Bay).
Ben's pony Gimmick was best pony. Ben is only 14 and was selected as the most improved player in New Zealand this season.
The third division was also a round robin competition and this section also featured some very close scoring games, with no more than three goals separating the teams in all but one game. King Country 3 won this division with Rangitikei Manawatu combined taking second place on goal count back.
Sheldon Hutchings (King Country) was best one, best two was Rick Auburn(Waipa) and best three was John Auburn also from Waipa. Best pony was Sheldon Hutchings Lace.
The most improved umpire for the season was a very popular decision for Wanganui Waimarino's John Butson. Best umpire, voted on by all associations was Central Plateau's Steve Watson. The Peter Tye memorial trophy for the best horse rider combination went to Russell Tye and Touch Up.
The members of the Wairarapa Association are to be congratulated on the way the championships were organised. There are not a large number of members in the Wairarapa and they made a great success of organising the event in a terrific venue.