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Socialising meets athleticism and agility at the NZ polo

Edmundo Tigers polo rider Jauno Bestof, left, in action against the Tiger Building Dirk van Reenen during the final of the Veuve Cliquot Polo Open Clevedon. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Edmundo Tigers polo rider Jauno Bestof, left, in action against the Tiger Building Dirk van Reenen during the final of the Veuve Cliquot Polo Open Clevedon. Photo / Brett Phibbs

No one does hedonism like the polo set, which made it a pleasure to attend the final of the Land Rover New Zealand Open, nestled in the hills surrounding Clevedon.

If anyone is in doubt, the clincher is the helicopters flying in while the final is in progress. No doubt there are important social gatherings to schmooze at around the country in mid-February, but surely even the most gregarious butterfly could build an entire six chukkas into their itinerary. You can't do ostentation better than that.

Nevertheless, socialising is what the sport revolves around. In a doff of the cap to rugby sevens, when the glasses stop clinking and the hands stop shaking you can always watch the action with a commentary team booming guidance through the PA.

For the record, in the battle of the largest cat species, the Edmundo Tigers defeated Tiger Building 10-9 in the final.

The athleticism and agility of the riders and ponies - as horses are known in polo-speak - is riveting, especially when you add in the requisite hand-eye co-ordination.

Those in the saddle possess yogi-like core strength to swivel, swerve and swat the 8cm diameter ball at speeds of up to 50km/h. They give it a decent clonk, too. Standing directly behind the goal, a mate took one in his bespoke-suited shoulder yesterday, as if failing to veer from the path of a Dale Steyn bouncer. He wore it stoically, but probably stole a moment to call his physio when attention was diverted.

Ponies get swapped at regular intervals. Spare a thought, too, for the grooms beavering away in the background plaiting tails and manning pooper-scoopers while the players revel in the glory.

NZ Black Sticks captain Anita Punt, Olympic Gold medalist Lisa Carrington and black sticks player Charlotte Harrison at the Veuve Cliquot Polo Open Clevedon. Photo / Brett Phibbs
NZ Black Sticks captain Anita Punt, Olympic Gold medalist Lisa Carrington and black sticks player Charlotte Harrison at the Veuve Cliquot Polo Open Clevedon. Photo / Brett Phibbs

Observing fashion etiquette appears to be as important as any skill with a polo mallet. Summer dresses and teetering heels are the order of the day for women. You can almost hear Achilles tendons squealing for mercy, especially during the halftime tradition of 'treading the turf'.

Hemlines generally adhere to the rule of thumb, 'must extend beyond the tips of your fingers when held at your sides' but the odd scrap of material masquerading as a belt passes muster. On occasion there's enough skin on show to give a monk an elastic jaw.

Men don the sport's eponymous shirt or slip into a bespoke suit. A handful insist on donning white trousers to expose their callipygia, surely a faux pas when indulging in anything but cricket. Straw hats are set at a rakish angle, with some estimated to be valued in the $2000 bracket, bringing new meaning to separating the wheat from the chaff. Sunglasses tend to be of the mirrored variety.

So who was the winner on the day? The Jones family. Plenty were trying to keep up with them.

- NZ Herald

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