Australias primed for semi

REACHING the ball first is a must if Australia is to win the 2011 Polocrosse World Cup, Warwick-based coach Ross Shepherd said from Rugby, England.

On Saturday Australia went down 21-12 to Zimbabwe to sustain its first loss in 12 World Cup games and the first loss since Ross has been at the helm.

“They beat us to the ball in the game on Saturday,” Ross said.

Australia beat Zambia 33-5 and New Zealand 29-5 in other pool games and meets South Africa tonight (England time) in the semi.

The victor will meet the winner of the Zimbabwe v United States semi in the grand final on Sunday.

“I am confident we can beat South Africa comfortably if we look at their results in pool games,” Ross said. “The South African horses aren’t as good as they could be and the United Kingdom should have beaten them.”

The national coach has no doubt Zimbabwe will beat United States in the other semi.

If Australia plays Zimbabwe in the grand final, Ross has no doubt the game will be close.

“I wasn’t surprised at how Zimbabwe played (against Australia) but was surprised by how convincing their win was,” Ross said.

“The ladies’ sections were about even and our men struggled.

“Zimbabwe is lucky with their men’s horses and have exceptional number one and three players.”

Ross believes Australia was the only team not to have a horse vetted out in the tournament.

“Our horses improved after being worked on a regular basis,” he said.

The coach rates Robert Sibley and Sandra Weston as his best players to date.

He said (Warwick player) Cameron Shepherd played well in the circumstances after being on one of the lesser horses in the Australian men’s pool.

“I think we have sorted him out on to a better horse today (Wednesday),” Ross said.

After playing six chukkas in preliminary games, the finals will be played over eight chukkas.

The national coach said that could mean more use of the interchange which is allowed at the end of each chukka unless there is an injury during a game.

“We have to field the strongest players and horses in every chukka,” Ross said.

On a weekend when Australia plays an African nation in the semis and may face another in the final, Ross is wary of the African style of passing the ball (more than others).

“We were chasing all the time against Zimbabwe (in the loss),” he said. “If we meet Zimbabwe in the final, I don’t think we will see another game like that when the bounce of the ball went one way (to Zimbabwe).

“I said to myself, the bounce of the ball had to change but it didn’t.”

Cameron said carrying the flag (as captain) in the opening ceremony was a great feeling.

As has been the case in much of his career, Cameron played in number one and two positions.

“There are not many spare horses in the pool so you have to look after what you have,” he said.

“Polocrosse is not as big in the United Kingdom as Australia so there are not as many horses to choose from.”

Cameron said there was little difference in the style or breeding of horses in the United Kingdom/Ireland compared with horses in Australia.

“A lot of their polocrosse horses are thoroughbred-cross,” he said.

“There are also a few stock horses as they have imported a few Australian Stock Horse stallions.”

After umpiring in the first two world cups at Morgan Park, Cameron said there was no comparison with the excitement of playing.

“I am amazed by players like Gavin Cocker (South Africa) and Avis Wotton (Ireland) who are playing in their third world cups,” he said.

With his first world cup more than half over, Cameron said the thrill of the event made him more determined to aim for 2015.

The player who hails from Massie, near Warwick and works in the family business, Wilsonton Meats, said Australian players often took for granted how lucky they were to be able to put a horse in the back paddock.

“There is not as much room here,” he said.

On Tuesday, the Australian team visited the Spencer Estate and saw where Princess Diana was buried.

While his parents Ken and Maureen Shepherd are at the world cup, he said players didn’t have a lot of spare time to spend with family and friends.

“Our horses are in boxes (stables) and we work them twice a day and also do a lot of racquet work.”

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