Speed and aggression of polo has appeal
Gentlemanly is not the first word Matt Bayley uses to describe polo.
"It's like hockey at 50 kilometres an hour. I've had five times as many injuries playing polo than I did playing hockey or rugby," he says.
A decade ago the 26-year-old gave up playing representative hockey to focus on the horseback sport.
Bayley's grandfather was involved with horse racing and it was through family that he was introduced to polo.
It was the sport's speed and aggression that stole his attention.
"You're slamming into people on a 600kg horse to try and get them off the ball.
"Polo has a lot of facets to it. It involves a lot of strategy," Bayley says.
The Remuera resident has played professionally in Australia and for the New Zealand Colts team in England.
On February 19 he will compete with New Zealand's other top players at the New Zealand Polo Open.
The previously invite-only tournament will be open to the general public this year for the first time in its 36-year history in a bid to increase national awareness of the sport.
Polo has traditionally been seen as the domain of only the wealthy.
In New Zealand it has a much broader appeal, Bayley says.
"When I went around England it was about status and class. Here, we have guys straight off the farm."
First-time spectators at the open will need to get their heads around a few basic rules but they should pick them up fairly quickly after watching a few games, he says.
Bayley is the son of one of Bayleys real estate's founding directors. The company is sponsoring the event and Bayley's team, making him patron and responsible for putting together the team.
The Open Finals Day is also promising to be a top event on the fashion calendar. Those who prefer glamour to sport can spend the day on the Fashion Lawn where labels such as Ted Baker, TK Store, and Rodd & Gunn will be showcasing their designs.
Celebrity judges including Colin Mathura-Jeffree, Owen Glenn, Aja Rock, and Oliver Driver will be on the lookout for those dressed to impress for the Fashion In The Field Competition.
The BMW New Zealand Polo Open runs from February 19 to 24, and the Central Leader is giving away a fantastic prize to one lucky reader.
The open is at the Auckland Polo Club, 102 Clevedon Kawakawa Rd, Clevedon.
Qualifying games before finals day can be viewed for free. Tickets to the finals day on February 24 range in price from $25 to $325 and can be purchased from iticket.co.nz.
The Central Leader has a double pass to the Fashion Lawn to give away. The pass is worth $240 and includes bubbles on arrival, a full picnic hamper for two, and exclusive viewing of the designer showcases.
To go in the draw, email email@example.com with your name, address and daytime phone number. Put "Fashion Lawn" in the subject line. Post your entry to Fashion Lawn, Central Leader, Private Bag 56910, Dominion Rd, Mt Eden, Auckland 1446. Entries close February 13.