KATHRYN VUKOVLJAK previews ACT Tree Week, April 30-May 6
SIX years ago when Nick Dixon-Wilmshurst heard about bike polo, a game played on bikes with mallets on an enclosed, hard court, he thought it sounded ridiculous but was keen to give it a go.
And it seems like he isn’t the only one.
The sport started in Canberra informally eight years ago and has since taken off with 200 players around the country and 12 in the ACT.
The game involves two teams of three players, each with a mallet, which is used to hit a ball into the goal.
Nick, 35, of Braddon, who is also the Canberra Bike Polo secretary, says as much as it’s a sport it’s also a community of many people who travel around the world to play.
It has taken Nick to places such as Seattle, Malaysia and Singapore but he’d really love to play in Latin America one day and see countries such as Colombia and Argentina.
“You get there and join a club with locals and they show you their city,” he says.
Nick first got involved when a friend of his said: “You like bikes and you like hockey, you should try it”. He was hooked from there.
“At bike polo you get good at controlling the bike and your spacial awareness,” he says.
“It’s good for general bike skills and there’s a lot of people who ride bikes in Canberra.”
But, Nick says, no matter a person’s skill levels, they’re all part of the polo family.
“I like the idea of the sport as a community as much as it is a sport,” he says.
Nick fell into a position as the Canberra Bike Polo secretary and as Australasian Hardcourt Bike Polo Association (aka Jedi Council) representative for Canberra, after he started asking questions about how bike polo is run.
From this, he has helped initiate community-focused bike polo events such as the annual Polo Camp in Pambula, on the NSW south coast, where they teach each other skills and socialise with people coming from as far as Singapore, NZ and San Diego.
“The word is spreading internationally about what we’re doing,” he says.
“People overseas are keen to know what we’re doing and are looking to attend.
“It’s a co-ed sport and we’re welcoming to anyone, any gender, any age, any sexuality, we’re very accepting.”
In recent years Canberra Bike Polo has put all its efforts into building the sport in Canberra.
“Rather than being content to play with just the people we have, our players are inviting their friends down to play,” Nick says.
In 2016 the club received a grant from the ACT government, which helped it buy equipment for new players to try the sport without investing too much money upfront.
The grant allowed the club to get extra mallets, which initially started as ski poles with a pipe attached to the end, but now that more players have gravitated towards the sport, they’re custom-made, polo-specific shafts with golf grips.
This means anyone interested can come to a game or, Nick says, the upcoming annual winter tournament, borrow a mallet and try the sport, which surprisingly has fewer injuries than people think.
“It’s a great opportunity to show the players who start here what the polo scene is like in other cities – because the players from those cities come to us and play alongside our players,” he says.
“It also allows us to show the people in Canberra what a polo competition looks like and how amazing some people are at the sport.”
Winter Tournament, Lyneham High, June 2-3. Email firstname.lastname@example.org