‘Polo could be my new favourite thing,’ my plus one said at the end of our day at Polo in the City. I have to agree. It has all the ingredients for the perfect outing: a day in the open air watching beautiful horses (and their riders), gazing at the stylish people flanking the field, and even a few interactive moments with divots. More on that in a moment.
Albert Park played host to Polo in the City for its tenth year. Ten years of polo right here in the city — how lucky is Melbourne to have the sport practically in our backyard? The long field was surrounded on two sides with rows of marquees. But before we even thought about heading into one, we simply had to get our photos taken at the Emporium photobooth. Then it was off to get our makeup, nails, and hair touched up. Yes, I realise that was probably the wrong order. Nonetheless, at least we looked utterly stunning, dahling, for the rest of the day. Melbourne-made Kester Black nailpolish FTW!
My friend and I were both surprised by how casual the whole day was. Before the polo started — and even between matches — polo-goers were welcome to traipse across the empty field from one side to the other. We did just that a few times ourselves, making our way to the far side of the field where most of the private and brand-name marquees were situated. The Air New Zealand marquee hosted us for a bit in the afternoon. We enjoyed a glass or two of bubbles while dining on chef-made paella — definitely a highlight of the afternoon.
Even if you don’t have guestlist access to a private marquee, there’s the Stella Artois Polo Lounge. Beer, cider, wine, bubbles — while you could splash out on a $20 glass of bubbles, there were also options for those more budget-minded. We enjoyed our bottles of pear cider whilst making smalltalk with some suited-up guys. One thing about the polo: everyone truly makes an effort on the style front. It was so much fun playing Fashion Police and talking about everyone’s outfits. Well done to all the ladies (myself included) for wearing wedge sandals. No stilettos were harmed during the polo.
Of course, you want to have appropriate footwear for the thing I was most looking forward to: re-living the scene in Pretty Woman where everyone is invited onto the field to stomp the divots (the bits of grass flicked up by the horses’ hooves). Best of all, they played the film’s theme song the first time they invited everyone onto the field.
Polo in the City is cheeky and irreverent while still being traditional. By far one of the best aspects of the day was the announcer. He must know that most attendees have little to know working knowledge of the sport, so he kept things basic. He explained what the players were up to at any giving moment, while still using some cute polo-only terminology. What’s a ‘chukka’? (Answer: one period of the game.) Keeping things light-hearted, at one point when the playing temporarily stopped, he invited all the ladies up to ‘pet the horses, and the players while you’re at it’, and told us that all we had to do to catch a player’s heart was ‘throw a ball in front of him. He’ll be yours forever.’
The sport itself is physically demanding, technically very high-level, and very fun to watch. I love thinking how versions of the same sport — men on horseback hitting things with long sticks — are played all over the world, from Mongolia to Afghanistan. There’s nothing quite like seeing horses galloping around, men barely hanging on, as they somehow miraculously manage to hit a minuscule ball whilst a full gallop.
Polo in the City is a fabulous day out, one I shall definitely be attending next year and all the years to come. Make sure you put it in your diary for 2016, and get yourself a cute pair of wedges to stomp all those divots.
Co-founder of The Plus Ones, Theresa plans to attend as much polo as possible now that she knows what a great experience it is.
Polo in the City runs yearly in Melbourne at Albert Park. Make sure to buy a ticket ($72 +bf) as early as possible next time before it sells out.