A World Cup fam­ily af­fair

Grocott's Mail - - SPORT - STAFF RE­PORTER

Rhodes Uni­ver­sity stu­dent Na­talie MacLarty, 22, has been se­lected to rep­re­sent South Africa in the Polocrosse World Cup in Aus­tralia in April 2019. Only eight play­ers make up the women and men’s team.

This will be MacLarty’s sec­ond World Cup since she started play­ing polocrosse at the age of 14 at her home farm in the Eland­slaagte district, KwaZulu Natal. She par­tic­i­pated in the 2015 tour­na­ment that saw South Africa be­ing crowned cham­pi­ons.

The 2nd year B.Phar­macy stu­dent is par­tic­u­larly ex­cited about her se­lec­tion, as she will be play­ing along­side the world’s best male polocrosse player, her brother, Graeme. What she calls the ic­ing on the cake is the fact that her fa­ther, Bruce MacLarty, is the head coach of the South African team.

“Polocrosse has al­ways been a fam­ily sport in gen­eral, but more so for our fam­ily. My mother played in the 2003 World Cup, my brother and my fa­ther are go­ing into their third World Cup,” she en­thused.

Grow­ing up in an iso­lated farm­ing area be­tween New­cas­tle and Lady­smith, Na­talie and her brother had the plea­sure of hav­ing horses as play­mates. Be­fore her teen years, she was in­ter­ested in Show Jump­ing, but she even­tu­ally gave in to the fam­ily pref­er­ence of horse sport.

Polocrosse is a mixed gen­der sport that started in farm­yards in the late 1940s as recre­ational com­pet­i­tive sport for dis­tant neigh­bours. The num­bers have in­creased, but the lack of spon­sor­ship is slow­ing the progress. Al­though the sport is big­ger in KZN, the mo­men­tum is pick­ing up in Gaut­eng and the West­ern Cape.

There are eight coun­tries com­pet­ing at the 2019 World Cup; Zam­bia (run­ner-ups in 2015), South Africa, Eng­land, Ire­land, Zim­babwe, Aus­tralia, Canada and New Zealand. Aus­tralia has never lost a tour­na­ment at home, mean­ing SA has to work harder and smarter to keep the cup.

“Aus­tralians are highly com­pet­i­tive, es­pe­cially in their own back­yard. It does not help that they will be play­ing with their own horses, whereas we have to choose stranger horses. But, I think we will be fine be­cause Aus­tralia plays a horse sport with a ball, whereas we play a ball sport on a horse,” she chuck­les.

Na­talie is ner­vous about the prospect of hav­ing her fa­ther coach her for an­other World Cup. “My fa­ther and I have an in­cred­i­ble re­la­tion­ship out­side the sport. When he is a coach, it does put a strain on our re­la­tion­ship be­cause he is ex­tra hard on me com­pared to other play­ers. So I have to strictly see him as Coach Bruce,” she said.

De­spite a de­mand­ing aca­demic sched­ule from a fac­ulty most per­ceive as the hard­est to get a qual­i­fi­ca­tion from, Na­talie in­tends play­ing high-level polocrosse for a long time. She is pas­sion­ate about the sport be­cause it keeps her men­tally and phys­i­cally fit.

“I love and em­brace pres­sure; af­ter all, great mo­ments arise from great op­por­tu­ni­ties. The fac­ulty has been un­der­stand­ing and ac­com­mo­dat­ing, that has been in­cred­i­ble. I thought it would be a strug­gle, I am so happy to be part of such a fac­ulty that al­lows me to pur­sue all my in­ter­ests,” she said.

Ac­cord­ing to the Dean of the Fac­ulty of Phar­macy, Na­talie is an ex­em­plary stu­dent. “The Fac­ulty of Phar­macy is very proud to have such an out­stand­ing stu­dent who is ex­celling in academia and sport in the in­ter­na­tional arena,” he said.

The next year, Na­talie says, will be spent pre­par­ing for the ul­ti­mate chal­lenge and en­joy­ing her Phar­macy stud­ies. Al­though this is her first year at Rhodes, she is do­ing her sec­ond year Phar­macy be­cause she al­ready holds a de­gree in BSc in Ge­net­ics.

“It is a lot of work to jug­gle sport and phar­macy, but clearly I love putting my­self un­der pres­sure. I am fas­ci­nated by how medicine in­ter­acts with the body and even­tu­ally heals, so I have been en­joy­ing my first year here at Rhodes,” she said.

About Polocrosse.

A team sport that is a com­bi­na­tion of polo and lacrosse. It is played out­side on a field on horse­back with six play­ers per team. Each rider uses a cane or fi­bre­glass stick to which is at­tached a rac­quet head with a loose, thread net, in which the ball is car­ried. It is made up of the At­tack player who scores goals, the Cen­tre player who acts as both an of­fen­sive and de­fen­sive player, and the De­fence player.

Polocrosse is for ev­ery­body; boys and girls from the age of seven to peo­ple over 50 years old.

The first African coun­tries to play the game was Zim­babwe and South Africa (Dur­ban) in 1948. The game has de­vel­oped to the ex­tent that there are now in ex­cess of 6 000 play­ers world­wide, with in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion be­ing held reg­u­larly at se­nior, ju­nior and vet­eran lev­els.

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