Legendary Larrikins, Exploring Banjo Paterson’s Humorous Bush Ballad “The Geebung Polo Club”
One of Banjo Paterson’s most comedic ballads, “The Geebung Polo Club” pits a team of wild bush larrikins against a city polo club in a match for the ages. While humorous, this iconic poem also offers Paterson’s perspective on Australian identity.
Paterson revels in the absurdity and chaos as the rough-and-tumble Geebungs armed with local rules and makeshift gear battle the well-heeled city team. Every outrageous collision is rendered with gusto.
The Man from Snowy River and Other Verses
by Andrew Barton ‘Banjo’ Paterson
Yet for all the hilarity surrounding their crude sportsmanship, the Geebungs exhibit a defiant underdog spirit that sees them fight past exhaustion through sheer determination. Their refusal to defer symbolizes the Australian rebel ethos.
In the end, both teams are memorialized equally despite vastly different lives, bound forever by their extraordinary contest. This sense of shared experience defining national character encapsulates Paterson’s spirit.
So while wildly exaggerated, “The Geebung Polo Club” insightfully explores the essence of Australian identity emerging on the frontier. Though separated by class, the teams display the irreverent competitive spirit and reckless courage that Paterson saw as unifying the people.
The Geebung Polo Club
It was somewhere up the country, in a land of rock and scrub,
That they formed an institution called the Geebung Polo Club.
They were long and wiry natives from the rugged mountain side,
And the horse was never saddled that the Geebungs couldn’t ride;
But their style of playing polo was irregular and rash —
They had mighty little science, but a mighty lot of dash:
And they played on mountain ponies that were muscular and strong,
Though their coats were quite unpolished,
and their manes and tails were long.
And they used to train those ponies wheeling cattle in the scrub:
They were demons, were the members of the Geebung Polo Club.
It was somewhere down the country, in a city’s smoke and steam,
That a polo club existed, called `The Cuff and Collar Team’.
As a social institution ’twas a marvellous success,
For the members were distinguished by exclusiveness and dress.
They had natty little ponies that were nice, and smooth, and sleek,
For their cultivated owners only rode ’em once a week.
So they started up the country in pursuit of sport and fame,
For they meant to show the Geebungs how they ought to play the game;
And they took their valets with them — just to give their boots a rub
Ere they started operations on the Geebung Polo Club.
Now my readers can imagine how the contest ebbed and flowed,
When the Geebung boys got going it was time to clear the road;
And the game was so terrific that ere half the time was gone
A spectator’s leg was broken — just from merely looking on.
For they waddied one another till the plain was strewn with dead,
While the score was kept so even that they neither got ahead.
And the Cuff and Collar Captain, when he tumbled off to die,
Was the last surviving player — so the game was called a tie.
Then the Captain of the Geebungs raised him slowly from the ground,
Though his wounds were mostly mortal, yet he fiercely gazed around;
There was no one to oppose him — all the rest were in a trance,
So he scrambled on his pony for his last expiring chance,
For he meant to make an effort to get victory to his side;
So he struck at goal — and missed it — then he tumbled off and died.
. . . . .
By the old Campaspe River, where the breezes shake the grass,
There’s a row of little gravestones that the stockmen never pass,
For they bear a crude inscription saying, `Stranger, drop a tear,
For the Cuff and Collar players and the Geebung boys lie here.’
And on misty moonlit evenings, while the dingoes howl around,
You can see their shadows flitting down that phantom polo ground;
You can hear the loud collisions as the flying players meet,
And the rattle of the mallets, and the rush of ponies’ feet,
Till the terrified spectator rides like blazes to the pub —
He’s been haunted by the spectres of the Geebung Polo Club.