'Juggling a dairy farm with polocrosse can be hectic' - Wicklow farmer getting ready to compete in World Cup
Wicklow farmer Stephen Nuzum is getting ready to compete in this year's Polocrosse World Cup in Australia, writes Siobhán English
Farming and polocrosse do not exactly go hand in hand, but somehow Arklow-based Stephen Nuzum finds the time to combine his busy workload and his love of the sport.
"This time of the year is not too bad as it is off-season, but it is hectic during the summer between milking cows, farm contracting and competitions," he says.
The spring months are also a busy time on the dairy farm, with calving now in full swing, and in recent weeks Stephen has had to do some serious juggling to squeeze in training ahead of the 2019 Adina Polocrosse World Cup in Australia.
A member of the Irish team that competed in a test match in South Africa last summer, Stephen will be making his debut on a World Cup team for the first time.
"I was a member of the under-21 team that competed in Australia in 2013, but this will be my first time going to a World Cup," he says.
Stephen (24) - who also played for a local Australian team while working on a sheep farm in Yass, New South Wales in 2013 - now works full-time on the family farm with his older brother Sam, following the death of their father, Sam Snr, in 2011.
"My father got out of dairy about 15 years ago and was doing sucklers only, but we got the milking parlour back up and running again two years ago," says Stephen.
They currently milk 120 cows, in addition to running a farming contracting business that offers baling and hedge-cutting, amongst other services.
"Time is my biggest problem," he says. "At the moment we are calving, so in the mornings I do the milking and then exercise my horses.
"During off-season here, we do a lot of road work with them, and in my case it is in the morning as it gets dark so quickly in the evenings.
"Ahead of the World Cup, we are now training each weekend."
Stephen has three horses he uses for the game, all thoroughbreds. "What we use is often bigger than a polo pony, but a lot of them are ex-racehorses too," he explains.
It was thanks to Stephen's cousin, Clive Nuzum, that he first got introduced to the sport in 2010.
"Clive was just starting a club at his Lookout Stud and I happened to be over there with some young horses. It all started from there really," recalls Stephen.
"Since then I have become really involved and love it."
A sport that demands accuracy, quick thinking and top class horsemanship
Ireland is one of eight affiliated countries invited to compete in the 2019 Adina Polocrosse World Cup in Australia in April. Held every four years, the World Cup is the highlight of the polocrosse calendar and this will be Ireland's fifth time to compete since the first World Cup in Australia in 2003.
A team of eight players will compete against the host nation Australia, in addition to the UK, New Zealand, South Africa, USA, Zimbabwe and Zambia.
The eight-person squad has been confirmed as Stephen Nuzum, Conor Doyle, Luke Brandon, Seb Chambers, Debbie Harris, Dara Mangan, Joanne Lavery and Ruth Shanahan.
The sport is similar to polo in that each team of three must score into the opposition's goal, but the players use lacrosse-style sticks rather than mallets. It demands good horsemanship, accuracy and quick-thinking and makes for a fantastic sport, which is steadily growing in popularity worldwide.
The sport was first developed in Australia in 1938 and introduced into Ireland in 1990 by David and Ivor Young. Their home club of Horetown, in Co Wexford quickly developed, with further clubs later starting countrywide. There are now 11 clubs across the country with some 120 members.
As a rule, polo requires a string of ponies, but polocrosse requires only one pony or horse per rider for a match.
A team consists of six players who are divided into two sections of three who play three alternate chukkas of six minutes each.
Riders are graded according to experience and skill - from beginners to advanced. Most types of horses adapt to the fun element of the sport, although thoroughbreds are most suitable.
Ireland hosts on average nine official tournaments during the polocrosse season, which runs from April to September. "We have some great competitions here in Ireland during the season, but to be invited to the World Cup is a great privilege," says team manager Lorraine Scott.
"We will have eight team members travelling, as well as the back-up team. While the horses will be supplied when we get there, the cost of the trip is enormous. We have to raise almost €80,000 in order to travel.
"We are thrilled to have already received sponsorship from Euro Giant, Equine Warehouse, and Mainstream Renewable Power," she adds.
Commenting on their sponsorship, Mainstream's chief executive Andy Kinsella said: "Mainstream is very proud to be sponsoring the Irish polocrosse squad for the 2019 World Cup. This is a sport which promotes gender equality and teamwork; two things very close to our heart as we expand rapidly across the globe.
"We are delighted to mark the opening of our regional development hub in Australia. We wish the Irish polocrosse team the very best of luck in Queensland."
The 2019 Adina Polocrosse World Cup takes place in Australia from April 22-28.
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