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2021… a Series of “Unprecedented” Events.

By Kim McDougall, Australia

Windsor Polo Club had a successful 2020 Spring Season after recovering from bushfires and COVID, and with events slowly returning to “normal”, everyone thought that brighter days were ahead in 2021. Boy, how we were so wrong.

2021 kicked off, horses were brought back in and the Autumn Season was underway. It was Windsor Polo Club’s 50th Anniversary. Celebrations and parties were planned and we were also set to host the Countess of Dudley Cup – There was a buzz in the basin.

Then on the 20th March an “unprecedented” one in thirty year flood hit NSW and greatly impacted the Hawkesbury Basin. It was devastating and heartbreaking to see. Many friends, family and much of our community were impacted by floodwaters that you had only ever heard stories about or seen in old photographs. It was surreal to see it happen right in front of our eyes and made the stories told by parents and grandparents about the flooding in the area in 1964, 1986 and 1990 come alive.

Cue the series of “unprecedented” events in the history of Windsor Polo Club.
Unprecedented community spirit.
Unprecedented generosity.
Unprecedented optimism.

For that week when our fields, clubhouse and outbuildings were underwater all we could do was sit and wait to see what damage had been done. In the meantime, the Countess of Dudley was to be relocated to Garangula. When the floodwater finally receded all we could see was the mud, the mess and that smell… Oh that smell. The clean up was swiftly underway with multiple flood working bees organised. Members, friends of members and family members showed up to get Windsor Polo Club tidied up. It was the most wonderful unprecedented show of community spirit we had ever seen.

Even though everyone was thinking that the rest of the Autumn Season in the Hawkesbury wouldn’t go ahead/shouldn’t go ahead – It did.

The fields were inspected and deemed safe. The basic things like toilets and electricity were fixed. The Windsor Polo Club was back, albeit in a limited capacity with basic amenities. On the 24th April polo was once again played in the Hawkesbury after Kurri Burri Polo Club gave the all clear for Windsor to run a tournament on their weekend, as they weren’t ready just yet to host a tournament.

9 teams across 3 grades competed and the positive atmosphere was infectious. We were back playing polo. We even had Allan serving lunch and refreshments outside under a little marquee using a BBQ for some hot food and eskies to keep the drinks cold, as our clubhouse wasn’t operational.  The post flood season highlight was even managing to get crowds back at the Off the Track Thoroughbred Event, which was run by Thoroughbred Events Australia.

Thank you Sharon Lenton for organising such a successful event.

©Freddy Dowling

This led us to our next chapter in the series of unprecedented events. The Windsor Polo Club Flood Relief GoFundMe page and the unprecedented generosity of the polo community Australia-wide.

Even though we were back playing polo there was still a massive damage and clean up bill. Things like the electronic gate motor, pumps for the irrigator, AV equipment and clubhouse fridges that still needed replacing. A GoFundMe page was set up with an original aim of $50,000. This was quickly surpassed and just kept on rising and rising. We ended up raising $120,000! The Windsor Polo Club Committee was blown away and still is in awe of the amazing generosity from the Australian Polo community. 

A plaque is currently being commissioned with everyone’s name that donated. It will be hung proudly in the clubhouse. The Windsor Polo Club Committee would like to acknowledge and say thank you to one and all, especially the following:

Firstly as some are aware Windsor Polo Club has gained a major sponsor in the past year – The Royal Richmond Hotel. We like to thank Karen Anderson, Peter Wynn and Todd Garratt for their unwavering support of the club through all these unprecedented times we’ve faced. We can’t wait until we’re out of lockdown so we can return and show our support. The best times were spent at The Royal after polo to celebrate, commiserate, laugh and tell stories about what happened on the field, off the field and across the weekend over a beer or two.

Next, we would like to personally thank Johnny Kahlbetzer. Johnny single handily managed to get our donations to above $100k by matching everyone’s donations once he heard about Windsor Polo Club’s cause. It made a massive difference and the donations literally doubled overnight. Thank you Johnny.

The Windsor Polo Club Committee would also like to send a whole-hearted thank you to everyone else who donated to our Flood Relief. Every single dollar made a difference. You made a difference.

Windsor Polo Club has now found ourselves in a unique “unprecedented” position allowing us to conduct major capital and maintenance improvements around the club and complete projects that were always limited due to funding. The flood in some respects was a blessing in disguise and it has allowed us to make the club a much better facility because of it.

The biggest capital improvement of note was installing a new bore and pump, which has just been completed. This means we can irrigate our fields more effectively and efficiently, always keeping them in the best condition possible for everyone to enjoy.

Even though all of NSW is currently in lockdown there still is unprecedented optimism at Windsor Polo Club. Yes we might be facing another season cancelled but do you know what? After everything that everyone has gone through together – droughts, fires, floods and now COVID the little spark of brightness that we all share is this amazing sport of polo. No matter what, we shall always reinvent new ways to play within restrictions or pivot in a new direction to find a way to play the game we all love. At the moment a revised spring calendar is being worked on. The Windsor Polo Club Committee is optimistic that we can play some sort of Spring Polo.

Even if that doesn’t happen, and we get out of lockdown after the official season is over, Windsor Polo Club is flagging the idea of playing twilight polo. Why not enjoy those balmy summer evenings playing polo even though polo isn’t traditionally played that time of year. Watch this space.

The Windsor Polo Club Committee.

Left to right: Kirrily Smith, Andrew Bridson, Julie McIntosh, Kim McDougall, Adam Meally, Jessica Sprenger, Adam Buchert. Absent: Nick Wayland. © Erin Meally
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