Patron of Strategic Help for Heroes
Being a polo patron requires an eye for talent, a passion for the sport and a lot of patience. We sat down with Peter O’Rorke, patron of Strategic Help for Heroes, to find out how he balances his career with this demanding sport and what the future holds for his team.
BECOMING A PATRON
Peter’s family have been playing polo since the late 1890’s, mostly in India and New Zealand. His grandfather was a Ghurka and lived for polo. “My mother was always nagging me to start,” remembers Peter, who joined Ham in 1986 when he got back from the Middle East and has played every season since. Having found his passion, Peter eventually started his own team, Strategic Help for Heroes, playing in the Holden White tournament for many years before joining Cowdray as a member in 2021.
As the Director at Strategic Shipping Company Ltd, Peter O’Rorke must strike a difficult balance between an exacting professional life and an equally demanding role as team patron. Acknowledging the difficulty in this duality, Peter confirms; “The first and most important step is to have a wholly professional polo manager or team-mate to ensure that the logistics of horses, tack, team structure, entries and so on is taken care of.” Once this dynamic is in place it’s time to relax and enjoy the game, the real reason for being a patron.
Aside from the organisational aspect, there is still a lot of unseen work for a patron to undertake. “For me, this is all about motivating the players and getting the best from them, not only great play, good behaviour and sportsmanship but also to appreciate their own exceptional skills.”
As a rule, Peter’s team has comprised of mainly British players. “I feel it is right to develop and help home-grown players. I look for individuals whose skills and ponies are natural for their position on the field, i.e. a strong defensive player with steady horses and a General’s tactical eye at the back, or a nuclear missile at number 2!” Aside from natural aptitude, Peter values a player’s attitude. “They must be unselfish, very hard working
at all times in the game, and with good sporting manners. It’s never win-at-all-costs for me”.
With polo there is always someone young and hungry waiting in the wings to join a team, not least at Cowdray Park where Peter has seen exceptional talent rising up this season. “There are quite a few talented young players at the moment. I’m particularly fond of Rufus Uloth, who has played with us for two or three years and has come on so well to get to 2 goals next year. Rufus embodies the qualities I pick in a young player.”
PLAYING THE SEASON
Strategic Help for Heroes had a successful run this season getting to the final of five of Cowdray’s 8-goal tournaments. They went on to win
s the Benson Cup in an unbeaten run, a season highlight for the team; “It was a perfect day. We sat around after the win with beers, wives and girlfriends in the glorious evening sunshine overlooking Ambersham 1.”
Having committed to support the Help for Heroes charity again next season, Strategic Help for Heroes will return to the 8-goal tournament run in 2024, with potential to enter some 10 or 12 goal tournaments as well. “The objective in partnering with this charity is to raise awareness of the exceptional work they do.”
As he looks ahead to the new season, Peter O’Rorke is in no doubt where he is looking forward to riding out. “I’ve played all over the place in the UK and overseas and there’s no question that Cowdray is the best. I’m so honoured to have been able to play polo here and the thrill never fades.”