Stockmen ready to play the NZ way
Plucked from the WA outback, a pair of Aboriginal stockmen are set to become the star attraction at Broome's Pinctada Cable Beach Polo in May.
Carl Malfong and Byron Malay will return this week to work at Myroodah Station in the Kimberley after two months in New Zealand with Mongolian riders learning the art of polo under the tutelage of leading trainer Harriet Kuru.
Malfong and Malay are the first two recipients of Cable Beach Polo scholarships, which event director Marilynne Paspaley is adamant will become an annual program.
She said the pair had thrived and impressed during their New Zealand training at the Opiango Hills centre in Porangahau.
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She believed the training would open up job opportunities for them during the annual station downtime.
A team from Myroodah will be in Broome to support their stockmen in the May event and they have had strong support from the Indigenous Land Council.
"I met them in New Zealand and I was really impressed with them," Ms Paspaley said.
"They are just really impressive young men and really good horsemen.
"They are perfectionists who have embraced everything and are just hungry for knowledge.
"But the benefit for them is on many levels and the scholarships provide valuable opportunities and experiences they would not otherwise have.
"It gives them employment, training, skill development and experience working alongside people in another industry.
"I couldn't be happier and I think these scholarships will become very prized."
Ms Paspaley hoped to harness corporate support to double the scholarships to four next year.
Polo matches are believed to have been played on Kimberley stations as far back as 1890.
Four indigenous stockmen were trained in Broome and played in last year's event and the scholarships were designed to take the training to a higher level.
Ms Paspaley said Australia's only beach polo event had benefited Broome economically.
"The event has literally brought the tourist season forward from June into May," she said.
"It provides a massive economic boost to Broome and we use local suppliers as much as we possibly can for everything we need for the event.
"It boosts visitation to Broome at a time when otherwise our occupancies were very low and basically benefits everybody involved in tourism."
A New Zealand family who attended Broome's polo tournament last year have initiated a "sister event", which was held for the first time at Porangahau in December.
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