Back: Coach Linda Gray, Chloe Coutts, Jessica Jeffrey, Erin Stirling, Lachlan Gray, Australian ambassador and technical trainer for horseball Francisco Campeao Front: Amy Gray, Abigail Lee and Molly Hird Image: Laura Thomas
Back: Coach Linda Gray, Chloe Coutts, Jessica Jeffrey, Erin Stirling, Lachlan Gray, Australian ambassador and technical trainer for horseball Francisco Campeao Front: Amy Gray, Abigail Lee and Molly Hird Image: Laura Thomas

WORLD CUP GLORY: Our young riders galloping to France

EIGHT young riders from across the Whitsundays and Mackay will fly the flag for Australia at the Horseball World Cup in France in August.

Whitsunday players Lachlan Gray, Brooke Mizzi, Molly Hird and Abigail Lee were all selected to play in the Australian under-16 side, while Amy Gray, Chloe Coutts and Jodie Tilse will line up for the under-21s.

Mackay player Jessica Grech was selected to play in the Australian ladies team.

They were joined by Jessica Jeffrey and Erin Stirling from New South Wales at a training camp in Strathdickie on the only fixed field dedicated to horseball in Australia.

Oceania ambassador for horseball Francisco Campeao, who operates through the international horseball federation, said the sport was a combination of rugby and basketball, but played on a horse.

“It started in the 70s in Europe and more specifically in France,” he said.

“It’s a fast-moving equestrian team game.”

Jessica Grech from Mackay and her horse, Promise-Ci. Picture: Tony Martin
Jessica Grech from Mackay and her horse, Promise-Ci. Picture: Tony Martin

In horseball four riders must pass a ball between themselves three times before they attempt to score by throwing the ball into a vertical hoop.

Mr Campeao said while it was a relatively new sport, the team-based element set it apart from other equestrian activities.

“Equestrian is normally individual, but this is a team sport that develops lots of skills for the kids that prepares them for life because we have to depend on each other to survive in this world,” he said.

“It also gives them other skills in horseriding - they start riding much better because of the sport.”

Horseball was only introduced into Australia in 2007, but Mr Campeao said as it gained more popularity it could become a major league in Australia.

“This new generation will bring a lot of good players in the future,” he said.

“You have got many more states and an area wider than the whole of Europe and this equestrian discipline is so welcome all over the world as it is here, so you’ve got a huge possibility and you’ve got lots of kids riding.

“The only problem in Australia that we are facing at the moment is that you’ve got a huge variety of equestrian disciplines - the kids have so much to choose from.”

The World Cup will run from August 17-22 in Saint-Lo, France.

Mr Campeao said the competition would be difficult, but he hoped that with more training Australia could become a force to be reckoned with.

“You have to account that other countries have been playing horseball for many, many years,” he said.

“Here we are still crawling, but we are on the correct track.

“Give it a few more years and I am sure, I’m a strong believer, that there’s going to be some very strong horseball being played in Australia.”

Meet the players from our region set to compete in the World Cup:

Lachlan Gray, Strathdickie

Lachlan Gray
Lachlan Gray

Lachlan is the captain of the Australian under-16 horseball team and described the sport as “sort of like rugby and basketball on horseback”.

While Lachlan said he was nervous about heading overseas, he was excited to see the competition from around the world and learn from other players.

“There’s really good ones from France and Portugal so they’ll be fun to watch,” he said.

Chloe Coutts, Proserpine

Chloe Coutts
Chloe Coutts

Chloe has played horseball for two years and said the secret to success in the sport was “a lot of strength and to be able to stay calm during quick intense situations.”

“You can’t really explain how much fun it is until you’re doing it,” she said.

Chloe looked forward to going overseas to see how horseball is played in countries where it is more popular than Australia.

“We don’t have anything that big in Australia with all the horses and all the facilities,” she said.

Amy Gray, Strathdickie

Amy Gray
Amy Gray

Amy described horseball as “like quidditch but with horses”.

She started playing two years ago and admitted that although the sport was fast-paced, it was not as intimidating as it looked.

“It was a bit like ‘wow’ at the start, but when you come back a couple more times you start to get the hang of it and it doesn’t look as scary any more,” she said.

Amy looked forward to meeting players from other countries and learning skills from them during the World Cup in August.

“The sport is relatively new in Australia but in Europe they have lots of teams so just to see them and their high level of playing is really exciting,” she said.

Abigail Lee, Cannonvale

Abigail Lee
Abigail Lee

Abigail started playing horseball just a few months ago but has since warmed up to the sport and is excited to represent her country at the World Cup.

She said the sportsmanship set it apart from other equestrian-based sports.

“Everyone is so close and you have to work all together and it’s just a team-based thing, which is good,” she said.

Molly Hird, Cannon Valley

Molly Hird
Molly Hird

Molly started playing horseball 11 months ago and was drawn to the intensity of the sport.

“I came and watched it one day and it really caught my eye,” she said.

“It was such action and so different to any other horse riding that I’ve done before.”

Molly said that teamwork was crucial in horseball and she hoped that if her team worked together at the World Cup they could perform well.

“It is very fast-paced and you focus on the game rather than the horses themselves,” she said.

“In other sports like dressage or show jumping it’s really about the horse whereas this it’s about the sport, so while you’re riding the horse you also get to play a sport so it’s a win-win.”

Jodie Tilse, Bowen

Jodie Tilse Image: Supplied
Jodie Tilse Image: Supplied

Jodie started playing horseball in January 2018 after she attended a clinic run by Francisco Campeao and was drawn to the fast-paced nature of the sport.

“It’s the adrenaline you get when you go galloping down field and play alongside all the other players,” she said.

While Jodie said the sport was relatively new in Australia, she was hopeful that her team could hold their own against tough competition.

“I think we will go over for the experience and to have fun, but hopefully we can rank somewhere at least in the top ten,” she said.

Brooke Mizzi, Strathdickie

Brooke Mizzi
Brooke Mizzi

Brooke first started playing horseball after seeing it at a showcase two years ago.

Molly said that playing in a team is what drew her to horseball.

“It’s more enjoyable than just riding by yourself,” she said.

Molly looked forward to travelling with her team and hoped they could be successful during the world cip.

“We’re training pretty hard so I hope our chances are pretty high,” she said

Erin Sterling, NSW

Erin Stirling
Erin Stirling

Erin has ridden horses for several years and was introduced to the sport by a friend.

“I like it how the partnership with your horse really gets a lot stronger because you have to trust them a lot more and your confidence really goes up,” she said.

Erin looked forward to “talking with people from other countries and trying to get better,” when she competes at the world cup.

Jessica Jeffrey, NSW

Jessica Jeffrey
Jessica Jeffrey

Jessica started playing horseball a year and a half ago after buying a new horse.

“My new horse’s owners played horseball so they invited me to play a game,” she said.

“It was my first time playing and by the end of the first game I’d done my first pick up and I’ve loved it ever since.

“I play rugby and I saw (horseball) and I like going fast on horses so I thought ‘that looks amazing’”

Jessica looked forward to “getting to meet all the countries, getting to see how they play and learning from them.”

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