Interview with Virginia Castellan of GOALHOLE and Sydney Bike Polo

I recently tricked  asked Virginia Castellan into doing an interview for this site and she was kind enough to fall for it  agree. I love what She and the Australian crew is doing with GOALHOLE and didn’t want to miss an opportunity to learn more about polo on the continent and how I can summarily steal all the publishing ideas of a site that’s better than my own  she does such a great job with the website.

 Tell me about your polo setup (your equipment, your bike, etc.)

After playing for a few years on a frame I found on the street, I decided to upgrade about 8 months ago and get a Hija de la Coneja.  This has been my best polo purchase ever. It’s a freewheel with 26 inch wheels, v-brakes and a Paul duplex lever.  It has the tiniest turning circle.  I love it!  I wear a Bern helmet, 661 knee pads and shoes, a Franklin glove on my shooting hand and a Fox glove on my brake hand. My current mallets are MKE shafts with the red MKE heads. They need to be re-headed or replaced very soon.  I am really slack at mallet maintenance.

How long have you been playing? Has it always been with the same club? 

I’ve been playing for 4 years.  I have always played in Sydney although I often think about moving to Brisbane.

How did Bike Polo develop in Australia? 

Polo started in Sydney in 2006 when we hosted the World Cycle Messenger Championships. Melbourne started at the same time.  Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide all started playing around 2008.  Gold Coast and Canberra started around 2010.  Bike polo hasn’t really spread outside of these major cities which is a bit of a shame.  In the early years, everyone kept to themselves and played their own games with their own rules against people in their own city. It wasn’t until 2009 when the first Australian Championships were held in Melbourne that we really started playing against each other and getting to know each other. Since then, most cities (apart from Canberra and the Gold Coast) hold a tournament once or twice a year and a teams travel from around Australia to play in them.  It’s hard for Perth because they are almost 4,000km across the other side of the country which makes it too expensive for them to travel to more than one or two tournaments a year.

Do you find yourselves using NAH rules, European Rules, or a hybrid/your own rules?

When we first started, the rules we used differed widely from city to city. In Sydney and Brisbane used the “circle the goals” rule which meant when a goal was scored, the scoring team has to turn and ride behind their own goal but then could attack straight away.  We held onto this for the 2010 Australian Championships (held in Brisbane) and forced the other clubs to play this way.  I still like it. Sydney used to also allow mallet throwing which was a lot of stupid fun.. until someone’s carbon forks took a deflection and snapped off at the frame.  Perth used to re-set for the joust after every goal.  We heard for years that lefties weren’t allowed to play in Brisbane but apparently that was bullshit.  Since we started sending Australian teams to the Worlds, we have tried to adopt the rule set that is being used there for all of our tournaments.

How often does your club travel off the island for tourneys? 

There are a bunch of us that travel quite a lot.  My team has been to the last three World Championships in Berlin, Seattle and Geneva.  Lately we have started crossing the ditch quite a bit to play with clubs in New Zealand – usually about twice a year.  In overseas trips alone, I guess I would be pushing close to 100,000 polo kilometres (62,000 miles) over the last 3 years.  Even within Australia, you need to catch a plane to attend a tournament.  Our nearest active club for tournaments is Brisbane and they are 1022km away (639 miles).

Tell me about GOALHOLE – what was the driving force to do it? Where do you get your posts from? where do you see it going?

GOALHOLE was set up by Bennett Rust who was probably sick to death of Ollie Wykeham and I bitching about how boring Australian polo websites were.  We really wanted to see something with original content that was relevant to Australasia (Australia and New Zealand) instead of constant re-posting of videos from overseas. One day Bennett messaged us and said it was ready to go, just pick a name and do what you want with it.
 Most of our name suggestions were actually way crasser than GOALHOLE.  After a couple of months, we got Jamie Barber on board and the four of us now run it. It’s hard for us to get together because I live in Sydney, Bennett lives on the Gold Coast and Jamie and Ollie are in Brisbane.  We have a secret facebook group (well I guess i
t’s not a secret anymore) that we use for talking shit and occasionally talking content.
Our posts come from all over the place, but the bulk of them we do ourselves.  We harrass other clubs in Australia and New Zealand for anything relating to what they are doing with varying levels of success. We also have Gemma Baxter from Melbourne who writes a lot of stuff for us. We try to build up a stash of regular content like bike checks, tshirts, wheelcovers and player profiles every time we go to a tournament and have access to a lot of people. WHBPC 2012 was great for that.  I have enough international profiles for the next 6 months.  Aside from stuff like this, we really don’t know what we are doing from week to week. It seems to work though.
gh we started GOALHOLE as an Australasian website, we are definitely starting to go more international.  Since WHBPC 2012 our international views have increased substantially and there seems to be an audience for what we are doing.

Do you think that having a strong online presence for bike polo is good for the sport? how? 

I hadn’t really thought about it. One of my aims for GOALHOLE was for Australasian players to get to know more about each other and the scenes in their respective cities through tournament reports, city reports and player profiles. I also wanted to develop a better relationship between Australian and New Zealand polo players. I think GOALHOLE is helping to achieve this.  As well, the Australasian Hardcourt Bike Polo group on Facebook has been a great way for people from both countries to interact.

 Is there something that you do particularly well in the sport? Anything particularly poorly?


I am good at tournament scheduling – we got through 50 games on one court in one day at our Cirque tournament. Sometimes I can even be a reasonable goalie.  Unfortunately, I am a bit of a bad loser and tend to sulk a bit.

If you could change one thing about any piece of equipment you have, what would it be? 

I want better wheels.  I just changed to a fairly new but cheap set I had on another bike and I know they probably won’t last. I can’t bring myself to spend the money building a good set just yet.  I also want Paul Brakes but that’s two things, isn’t it :)

Do you think polo in Australia is particular to Australia (do you notice big differences in play between Australia and America or Great Britain? 

I like to think allowing teams to play beer goals in major tournaments (every player on the court has to drink after a goal is scored) is particular to Australia and New Zealand but I’m sure there are other countries out there doing it. Australian heckling seems to be a lot more graphic (eg “Do you go down on your Mum like that?” when someone crashes).  In terms of the way we actually play the game, I don’t think anything stands out as being particularly Australian (apart from maybe the use of angled cheater mallets but that’s a Melbourne thing).

Anything else you’d like to add? 

Just that I really like your blog. Apart from GOALHOLE, it’s the only polo blog I read on a regular basis.
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