Rivals Queensland and NSW meet in horseball series
HORSEBALL: The sport of horseball dominated the sporting landscape in the Whitsundays during the past week.
Described as a cross between rugby union and basketball on horseback, horseball's emergence reached another level as Strathdickie hosted an Under-16 Interstate Series between traditional rivals Queensland and New South Wales.
The four-match series proved an epic contest with the Blues and Maroons each winning two matches.
But it was NSW who claimed the series courtesy of superior goals, 24-17.
Homeground advantage smiled on Queensland through the opening two matches of the series, prevailing 6-5 in the series opener on January 8.
More than 160mm of rain saw the double-header scheduled for the next day postponed, before the two sides renewed hostilities on January 10.
The Maroons raced to a 2-0 series lead with a hard-fought 5-4 success before NSW responded by scoring an emphatic 8-2 triumph in game three.
Wet weather again postponed the decider until January 12 where the Blues accounted for Queensland 8-5.
Maroons coach and Australian Horseball vice-president Linda Gray said the Interstate Series proved a real hit.
"It was very successful, everyone had a ball and the kids are totally worn out,” she said.
"This is the only fixed pitch in Australia, so that was a nice surprise from the committee when they came up from down south to see we're not just portable.
"A lot of people, old and young, have come and watched, they've been on the sidelines cheering and enjoying the action.”
Gray also heaped praise on her young side, despite the Blues taking the series honours.
"I couldn't be prouder of them, they gave it a real shot.
"We competed against this team in July and the difference in our quality, picking up was unreal.
"For us to tie against them and lose on a countback was phenomenal. There's no way we could have rode that way in July.”
The Queensland line-up hails predominantly from the Mackay and Whitsundays region.
Captained by Bowen's Jodie Tilse, Proserpine's Chloe Coutts was the best rider and horse, with her trusty steed Lucky.
The team also featured Jessica Grech (Mackay), Amy and Lachlan Gray from Strathdickie, and North Gregory's Chelsea Hodder.
Gray added that the series would prove a catalyst for further growth in the sport.
"We're looking at doing another exchange,” she said.
"This was an Under-16 exchange. We're going to try and take it into the Under-21s.
"Locally we'll be starting an Under-13 side to get them starting to move up into the other two leagues.”
World Cup rider Jay Jay Campeao and renowned coach Francisco Campeao were also on hand for the series, with Gray talking about the impact they made on the current generation.
"Jay Jay is an awesome inspiration for the kids to see where they could go with this sport and Francisco's just got more knowledge in his left toe than I could ever imagine having,” she said.
"It's his passion and he shows it.”
Campeao said the Queensland line-up should be proud of the strides they had made in the space of six months to push the visiting Blues.
"It was way better than what I expected, and I told them all that,” he said.
"We ended up coming out with a loss, but just on goal average, not on winning and losing.
"They won the first two games by a margin of one and New South Wales caught up and gave us a bit more of a margin so they ended up taking the win.”