We had the best time hanging with Ollie, who in true local style, took us to all the best spots for food, drink (beer and coffee) and sight seeing. I also got to play heaps of Bike Polo with Ollie and the strong emerging scene. Again, big thanks guys.
But if you know Ollie, you also know he’s got a lot to say about life and of course bike polo. Therefore, who better to sit down with over a good coffee and talk all things bike polo…
Cosmic: Please introduce yourself and your bike polo playing history:
Ollie: Hi, I’m Ollie Wykaham, from Brisbane, Australia. I’ve been playing polo since September 2009. I started playing polo when I started riding track bikes, two courier friends of mine told me I should stop skateboarding and give it a try. I did, and have been hooked ever since.
My first proper tournament was the Australasian Nationals (AHBPC) in late 2010. I remember deciding to take polo “more seriously” after that. I got a polo gearing (fixed, brakeless, 44/32) and haven’t looked back.
C: We last met at the 2012 Worlds and London, how was that trip to Europe for you?
O: The Worlds was an amazing experience. It’s such a different vibe from other tourneys. There is a melting pot of scenes and nationalities, it was almost overwhelming at first. It was great to see such a high level of polo and so much of it. Brook from Sydney described the knockout round the best, he said it is like the best festival with all your favourite bands playing at once and all the punters are friends you haven’t met yet. The heckling and energy from the crowd was awesome, it is something that smaller tournaments won’t ever be able to replicate.
C: Ha! Talking of heckling, the travelling Australian scene appear to already have a rep for being the loudest at court side. Is this justified?
O: Definitely justified!
C: What do you take from seeing / playing with the global scene?
O: I didn’t make it to Seattle 2011, my team mates Dom and Ray went with Brook, it was a massive learning experience for them and consequently us, as most Australians had no idea of the level of play. When you only see top level of polo video it can be hard to judge the speed and skill. We had four Brisbane players go to Seattle, which is invaluable for our progression as a scene. It wasn’t just our play that improved. It reinvigorated the play at home when players return.
We learn many things every time we send players over seas. There are almost too many to count when it comes to play: physically, passing, speed, commitment on and off the ball. I could list for days.
Often though the most important is the knowledge around the game. Like organisation, courts, gear, rules and tactics. Things that you can’t easily learn from watching videos or reading about online. Seeing how the rest of the world does things and comparing to what is the norm at home. Lets just say lots of things have changed and developed in our scene after 2011 and 12 Worlds.
Personally I learn a lot from watching, seeing top players in the flesh at Worlds and the Open. It showed me how polo can be played. I learned to push myself in every aspect of the game and not to give up trying things that are difficult.
C: Do you (Australian bike polo scene) ever feel isolated from the rest of World bike polo)
O: We are definitely cursed by isolation in Australia. Probably more so than most other polo nations. Our closest neighbouring scene that plays weekly is 1000km away. So inter-city pickup is 12 hour drive away. This definitely leads us to feel isolated from the rest of the polo world. Especially when compared to NA and Europe.
It feels like the isolation curses us like Sisyphus, rolling a rock up a hill only for it to roll down again for eternity. Every Northern hemisphere winter we play polo constantly, revealing in our summer, tricking ourselves into thinking we will make up for the lack of tournament play. Unfortunately though, as the northern polo season begins we see all the tournaments rack up and we see our hard work rapidly undone.
C: Where do you currently play and have you experienced difficulties with courts in the past?
O: Our court situation is complicated. We play at an old disused tennis court behind the state high school in Musgrave Park, on the border with South Brisbane and West End, right near the river in the inner city.
The court surface is rough, uneven and covered often with gravel, sand and glass. This makes the ball skip, causes lots of crashes, flats and grazes. We have barriers around the court and a demountable central barrier that we can divide the court in two. In spite of all the problems with the surface we are used to it, and begrudgingly love it.
The complication comes because the court is a designated Aboriginal cultural site: meaning the Aboriginal Community have a native title claim over the site and has plans to develop it into a cultural centre.
It is also next to the former site of a “tent embassy” that was setup to draw awareness to the plight of Aboriginal Australians.
The embassy fell apart due to infighting and the influx of drugs and alcohol. This was shame as it made an otherwise quite dangerous and unpredictable park safe.
Now due to the community conflict, we get drawn into the dispute. We have had community members on multiple occasions abuse us for playing, demand rent from us and abuse us for drinking.
We are currently in the process of looking for a new home, which is sad because “The Grave” is home. We have other courts to play at, but some are at schools, so equally complicated and others also have surface or size issues.
C: Where else in Australia is bike polo being played?
O: From what I know: Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Canberra and Perth all play weekly. Tasmania, Newcastle and Freemantle play irregularly or have just started. The Gold Coast used to play every week and we would travel to play together. But the lost their court and have struggled to get reestablished. There are places like Toowoomba, Frankston and Albury Wodonga that have played once and may stiill play once in a while, but their scenes never really took off.
C: This year the Australasian Nationals are in Timaru, New Zealand. What are your expectations for the tournament in terms of set up and playing level?
O: In terms of set up, Timaru will be amazing. The organisers have had plenty of experience holding MTB comps and are well organised. In terms of competition I am really excited! We have heaps of international players like Morgan, Jono, Anja, Stevie, the German twins (Johannes and Michies) and Mat Cosmic, which will spice things up and bring a real difference to the tourney. Also this will be NZ’s chance to show off. I hear their polo scene has skyrocketed in recent times, with scenes multiplying and the number of solid players exploding.
It’s going to be tough but I am so excited!
C: Who won last year?
O: Not a Single Fuck Was Given, from Perth won last year and my team Triple Dutch Rudders came second/ It was a great final and I am happy to call those boys good friends and staunch rivals.
C: Who are the favourites or ones to watch for this year?
O: My money is on my home team MPS. DOGSOCCER from Sydney, NASFWG from Perth and Wollie Bullies from Bris all look strong, but MPS have the hunger it takes to win. I’m not discounting NZ teams, I just don’t know how they are playing right now. I haven’t played there since 2011 and from what I hear they are really tough!
C: Big thanks Ollie. Hope to see you and the Aussie scene over in Europe again soon.