At this point, Warwick University Polo Club are becoming greedy.
The gold-rush started with a win for both novices and beginners at the Rugby Polo Club University Challenge – the latter competing just one month after starting out in the sport. The team took that form into the SUPA Winter Nationals, winning the Novice 2 division at a tournament featuring 140 universities from across the United Kingdom.
Then two team members were called up to the SUPA England Squad. To put that into context, the club had never had an international call-up before, and the whole national squad is only four members strong. Their England team triumphed at the Tri-Nations tournament, beating the crème-de-la-crème of Ireland and Scotland. For the lucky pair, it was an unparalleled, almost ethereal experience, and one they will never forget.
Now the club is celebrating again; this time after securing the St Andrews Charity Polo Tournament Novice and Beginner divisions in front of a crowd of 1,700 people. The Scottish leg of this quartet of success was all in aid of Help for Heroes, making the win even sweeter.
Warwick have become…a thorn in the side of the country’s university polo outfits
Achieving just one of the above would have made this an extraordinary season. To do all four is a powerful testament to the ability and dedication of all those involved with the team. Indeed, Warwick have become such a thorn in the side of the country’s university polo outfits that at the awards ceremony for the nationals a spectator loudly bemoaned ‘Warwick always bloody win everything!’
Ara Shikhalislami, 2016/17 Club President, was keen to stress that this season’s success was far from an accident. The hard work starts away from the pitch, and is often unglamorous. Describing himself as ‘determined…to improve the club’, Ara says he ‘changed our marketing methods and advertised the club to freshers and applicants to ensure we got our name out there’.
Polo is a sport intrinsically tied to class, but Ara says that perception couldn’t be further from the reality when it comes to Warwick’s team. The club’s motto states the desire to make the sport as ‘accessible and affordable as possible, for people of all backgrounds’. To that end, the club use its sponsorships to subsidise lessons early on in the term, and have some of the lowest polo rates in the country.
As such, club members are keen to encourage potential players, and say that fears of class division or snobbery are in this case unfounded. Ara states that he and his teammates make up the ‘furthest thing from an elitist club’ and that any new members will find that people play in the club, ‘not because they’re posh, but because this really is the most incredible team sport, filled with adrenaline and discipline.’
Of course, key to all success are the unofficial teammates of the ponies, and Ara says the club’s relationship with their coaches Grant and Tessa Collett has helped them secure the ‘Usain Bolts; the Michael Phelps; the Lionel Messi’s of university polo ponies.’
All spectators can be justifiably confident of continued success for Team Warwick
Next up for the club is the SUPA Summer Nationals, and the team will enjoy home advantage at Offchurch Bury Polo Club, just outside of Leamington. Taking place from 14-16 June, the club are taking a record 12 teams, and all spectators can be justifiably confident of continued success for Team Warwick.
To anyone thinking of trying something new and joining one of the most successful teams on campus, Ara’s message is simple. ‘Please just try it. Let’s face it, you’ve spent £30 on worse things at uni.’ If next year can be half as good as this, you’ll be in for a treat.