It’s been 50 years since Galloping Gully Polocrosse Club first formed and, in a quirky twist of fate, exactly 50 teams have made the trip to battle it out at the anniversary carnival. 

Story + Photo Virginia Tapscott

On a bone-dry paddock in north-western New South Wales the hooves of polocrosse horses are thundering across dirt fields and throwing up powdery dust in the afternoon light.

“Up the Gully!” Bones Falkiner yells from a crowd gathering at the bar overlooking the main field. One of the club’s original members, Bones is 78 years old and proud to see in the half century as president. 

Galloping Gully has stood the test of time, riding out the ebb and flow of membership numbers, the loss of the original club grounds and carnivals cancelled over the years due to major flood events. It has come a long way since a handful of founding members held the first practice day on the stock route near Narrabri and cooked lunch on the back of a shovel. This year there are more than 100 members, six of whom are playing at a national level. The new, completely club-owned grounds are decked out with modern kitchen, power and toilet facilities, except for a hot-water donkey still used for the men’s showers. 

Over the decades the club has built a reputation for delivering exceptional country hospitality and is one of the last remaining true bush carnivals on the polocrosse circuit. It doesn’t matter what horse you ride or what truck you drove here in, you’re treated the same. They’ll ride hard and bust your knuckles on the field, but then serve you a hot roast dinner with a cold beer afterwards. One steer, three sheep and two pigs keep over 300 people well fed for the weekend. 

There are no kids on smartphones here. If they’re not on horseback they’re kept entertained with the rooster race, tug of war and lolly drop. 

On Sunday morning the wind picks up again, whistling across the wide brown plains so that the brown shirts of the home club are almost difficult to see in the dusty haze. The A-grade final is furiously fought between Quirindi and Gully, until the face of every player is covered in a mix of dirt and sweat. And as the bell rings out on the last chukka, it’s a win for Gully.  

This story excerpt is from Issue #121

Outback Magazine: October/November 2018