Stockmen take to polo with aplomb
Byran Malay and Carl James Manfong. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

On a remote Kimberley station, Aboriginal stockmen Carl Manfong and Byran Malay do what they do best - mustering, branding, feeding and loading 22,000 head of Brahmin cattle.

Its tough work that begins with the sun's first rays and usually ends in the middle of a spectacular Kimberley sunset.

And, according to Myroodah Station manager Chris Daniell, it is work that has helped 27-year-old Mr Manfong and 19-year-old Mr Malay develop into accomplished horsemen and reliable and trusted employees - skills that have also given them the opportunity of a lifetime.

This year, the pair flew to New Zealand to be taught to play polo by one of the world's leading trainers, Harriet Kuru.

And, this month, they will be among the star attractions at Broome's annual Pinctada Cable Beach polo tournament, mixing with some of the best polo players from around the world.

Myroodah is a 163,000ha property on the edge of the Great Sandy Desert, about a four-hour car journey from Broome.

It is owned by the Indigenous Land Corporation and breeds cattle for the live-export trade.

Mr Manfong and Mr Malay are in their second year on the station, working alongside another five permanent Aboriginal stockmen and eight trainees.

"I started riding when I was 15," Mr Manfong said.

"I wanted to establish myself in a career and I wanted that career to be in cattle.

"Going to New Zealand was a good experience. It was a long way from home and the first time I have left Australia.

"Polo takes a lot of practice.

"It is not something that is easy to pick up. I think you would need many, many years - maybe five or six - to get it really right.

"We haven't got any polo sticks on Myroodah yet, so sometimes Byran and I play with pretend sticks.

"Polo horses need a good temperament, but I reckon I could teach some of our stock horses to play polo."

Malay and Manfong at Myroodah Station. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

Mr Malay, whose family lives near Derby, said the furthest he had travelled before the New Zealand trip was Esperance.

"It was great to be in a different country and to learn something completely different," he said.

"I think I did all right.

"It's not as easy as it looks.

"You need good balance to be able to hit the ball from the back of a horse."

Mr Manfong and Mr Malay are the first two recipients of Cable Beach polo scholarships, which event director Marilynne Paspaley says will become an annual program.

Ms Paspaley said the pair had impressed people at Opiango Hills centre in Porangahau on the North Island.

And she is convinced the training will open up job opportunities for them during the annual station downtime.

"They are just really impressive young men and really good horsemen," she said.

"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.

"I dream that one day, one of the recipients of our scholarships will become a professional polo player," she said.

And Mr Manfong wouldn't mind if that person was him.

"I would love to travel the world playing polo. Who wouldn't," he said.

"I could meet the Queen. I would love to meet the Queen."

Byran Malay. Picture: Simon Santi/The West Australian

The West Australian

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