Horse and rac­quet ready

Five decades on, Neill-Bal­lan­tine is still com­pet­ing in polocrosse

Central and North Burnett Times - - SPORT - Philippe Co­querand philippe.co­querand@cnbtimes.com.au

POLOCROSSE: A life­long pas­sion shows no sign of dwin­dling for polocrosse com­peti­tor, Jim Neil­lBalan­tine.

Neill-Bal­len­tine, who be­gan his ca­reer in the sport as a ju­nior in Glad­stone, com­peted at the an­nual polocrosse event in Eidsvold and thor­oughly en­joyed the oc­ca­sion.

“We started the polocrosse club on the cat­tle sta­tion and the men work­ing on the sta­tion would play with us,” he said.

“At that time my fa­ther was around and we had three stock men and we just loved it.

“We had plenty of horses, we bred horses for years and that made it easy to get in­volved with the polocrosse.”

Neill-Bal­len­tine re­cently won a pres­ti­gious medal at the Al­ton Downs club near Rock­hamp­ton.

“I won the best masters player which was an in­di­vid­ual award for the best and fairest and that was in re­mem­brance of a past player,” he said.

Polocrosse has been played through four gen­er­a­tions of the Bal­lan­tine fam­ily.

“My fa­ther played, my sons have played and my grand­son has played and I’ve played,” Neill-Bal­len­tine said.

“It’s a very fam­i­ly­ori­ented sport and ev­ery­one can play.

“You have ju­niors and they’re bring­ing in the lit­tle kids.

“If you have enough num­bers, you have un­der-21 com­pe­ti­tions and up in this part of the world, the men and women all play to­gether.”

Neill-Bal­len­tine said polocrosse was grow­ing in pop­u­lar­ity in some parts of the coun­try and wan­ing in oth­ers.

“Some ar­eas it’s grow­ing but up north it’s dropped off a bit,” he said.

“In Cairns and Townsville I don’t think there’s many peo­ple play­ing it as there was 10 years ago.

“The Tansey club near Goomeri has seen an im­prove­ment with play­ing num­bers, but also on the Gold Coast, (it) has seen polocrosse thriv­ing.

Neill-Bal­len­tine was born in Glad­stone and has played for Cal­liope for the past two decades.

“I’ve been with Cal­liope ever since the ’90s. It’s about 20km from Glad­stone so it’s not a long drive,” he said.

“I’ve loved polocrosse be­cause it’s an ama­teur sport and there’s a lot of good­will and the polocrosse fra­ter­nity is just very friendly.”

He said polocrosse was sim­i­lar to foot­ball be­cause pos­ses­sion of the ball is key to the game.

“In polocrosse you can throw the ball for­ward, you can throw it off­side, whereas in league and union you can’t throw it for­ward,” he said.

A high­light for Neil­lBal­len­tine was play­ing in the masters com­pe­ti­tion which was held in Dar­win in 2002.

“I also played at Al­bury near the Vic­to­rian bor­der,” he said.

❝ It’s a very fam­i­ly­ori­ented sport and ev­ery­one can play. — Jim Neill-Bal­lan­tine

VET­ERAN STA­TUS: Jim Neill-Bal­lan­tine has been com­pet­ing in polocrosse since he was a child and still en­joys the sport. PHO­TOS: PHILIPPE CO­QUERAND

Jim Neill-Bal­lan­tine com­pet­ing at the an­nual Eidsvold polocrosse at the week­end.

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