By Cake and Soul
Toward the twilight months of 2013, a missive was received by The Australian Jugger League requesting representatives to run a Jugger field at a festival celebrating the end of one year and the beginning ofthe next. Six Juggers answered the call, three from Brisbane and three from Canberra, volunteering to display their prowess and show people the way of the one true dog skull.
They arrived at the farm at “It’s a Nice Place” 30 minutes south-west of Port Macquarie late in the day on the 29th. Handstands and sparring practice drew attention to the Juggers before they had even completed setting up camp. That evening, reputation had preceded them and cries of “Oh! So you are the Juggers!” abounded. The Juggers spent the first evening explaining Jugger, chowing down on a BBQ and making a pillow fort while a DJ skilfully spun tunes together. Little sleep was had that night.
After a tai chi session in the morning to wake up, the festival started in earnest a bit before midday Monday 30th. The rules for the festival were laid down as ‘no negativity’ and the first artist was introduced. Bukhchuluun Ganburged(Bukhu) – a Mongolian throat singer who also played a horse head fiddle (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Morin_khuur) – entertained and delighted us with his skill, charm and stories. Post performance, it was time for the Juggers to head down to the Jugger pitch, set up the field and check all of the spars.
(left) Bukhu playing the horse head fiddle 
(below) The Jugger Pitch 
The field had long, luscious, green grass rather than the brown, grass-shaped razor wire of jugger fields in Brisbane. The spars the festival organisers had arranged to be made by local school students were inspected and most were deemed suitable for play but with a strong preference for using the spars brought from Brisbane and Canberra. There was no shortage nor lack of variety of spars – all that remained to be acquired were volunteers to play. In dribs and drabs the festival goers headed down from the stage to the jugger pitch. Some congregated on the grass at the side of the pitch with their drinks. Other braver souls stepped out into the field to learn the way of the Jugger. Two large games of last man standing were played, which could have continued for hours if ‘last life’ hadn’t been called in order to determine a winner. Some of the new players quickly learned to form alliances to take down experienced Jugger players such as Edwin (Clone) Jones, while others darted and dashed about the field picking opponents opportunistically as the audience shouted encouragement from the sidelines. Both games ended in shield battles, the second of which was particularly epic. Soul faced off against a new shield player from the festival – Ivan Fernandes. Ivan, agile and fast on his feet, parried and blocked strike after strike from Soul. The gravity-defying Soul was victorious in the end, but not without Ivan riposting bravely and effectively to hold Soul off for almost a full minute and give the crowd a great show.
(left) Last Man Standing 
(right) Clone testing a newcomer 
The massive games of last man standing, however, were merely warm up exercises for the real thing. The rules had been explained, the field was ready, and the players now had a feel for using the spars. It was time for JUGGER. Eight volunteers initially stepped onto the field and were split into two teams of four with experienced Juggers joining each team as qwik and captain. They faced off against each other for three points before another group of volunteers took their turn and ran their own qwiks for the first time. All teams acquitted themselves well and there were no losers amongst them. Finally, it was time for the boldest of the volunteers to form a team and take on the Juggers from Brisbane and Canberra. Resplendent in a variety of Jugger jerseys from local, interstate and international teams, Clone, Kat, Soul, Redbeard, Cake and Adam A. formed as good looking a Jugger team as has ever been seen. Five challengers took up positions against them and the game was on! The challengers had enthusiasm and energy and pressed the Juggers hard. In the heat of the game some tags weren’t felt and the game had one or two very chaotic points. By the end of five points, the strategy, skill and teamwork employed by the Juggers saw them win the demonstration game and the crowd had a brief glimpse into how Jugger can be played. With handshakes and hugs, Juggers old and new left the field and dispersed to other activities. Some went to grab delicious snacks (spring rolls, curry puffs and chicken wings), find coffee and lie in the shade while others chilled back at the campsite next to the Jugger pitch or swam in the dam.
The second day had such beautiful warm weather that it was agreed a trip to the beach was in order. Two carloads of Juggers and a thirty minute drive to Port Macquarie later, it was time to hit the water or go for a walk A couple (pun) of Juggers took advantage of the chance to score themselves some cafe quality coffee, but it wasn't long before all the Canberrans were in the ocean enjoying the waves while the Brisbanites looked on in disbelief (it's not swimming weather unless it's over 35degrees up north).The trip back to the campsite included a short visit to the bottle shop to grab supplies for toasting the new year, and an even shorter visit to the op shop at Kew to grab extra blankets, as the evenings had all been rather cool.
A second, smaller Jugger session was run again in the afternoon, in between an impromptu choir session on ‘the island’ and the first band of the evening. A couple of players were shown a few of the finer points of using particular weapons and a ‘best of five’ game was played with experienced and new players evenly split across both teams.
As we approached the final hours of 2013, festival goers started to sprout feathers and sequins on their clothes, or in the case of one memorable costume, nothing but underpants and a YOLO sign. For once the Juggers blended into the background with their picnic blanket, snacks from the last of the meal tickets, and an esky full of ginger beer and Redbeard’s Jäger. The rest of the evening was enjoyed by all: two Jugger pirates latin and blues dancing the night away; Redbeard attempting to prove that “nothing bad ever happens on Jäger," but only proving that upright unconsciousness is possible; and everyone else was content to enjoy the live music. Once the snacks were gone, the duo were tired of being dancing pirates, and the music loud enough to hear from the campsite, the Juggers left the stage area to sneak back to the tents and break out the wine, port and card games to keep them busy while waiting to toast in the new year....three times. Once for Canberra, once for Adelaide (because why not), and once for Brisbane. Cheers, to 2014!
Juggers at work 
Juggers at rest 
With no games booked in for the Juggers to run on New Year's Day, most everyone decided it was time to pack up camp and head back to the big cities. Feedback about the games we ran at the festival was “One of the highlights of the weekend.” Before leaving the property, we stopped by as a group to personally thank the organisers of 'It's a Nice Place' festival for inviting us along to share the great sport of Jugger with them, as well as for being such friendly hosts. Invites to possible future events were tossed about and then it was time for the two cars to leave the property, drive down the street, then head off in their separate directions.
While the Canberra crew had an uneventful drive back south, the Brisbane group were a little less fortunate...
The 3 nights of camping and 2 days of playing Jugger had been brilliant but it was time for weary Juggers to return to Brisbane. The drive back should have taken about 7 hours but, a little bit past the half way mark, disaster struck. The vehicle that had taken us and the gear all the way from Brisbane to the festival and then the return trip to Port Macquarie from the campsite had finally had enough. The oil had been leaking and run dangerously low, and something in the engine of the automatic just couldn’t handle any more. Redbeard handled the immediate situation magnificently. He spotted a side road off the highway and managed to get us out of the way and parked safely when the power steering and brakes failed along with the engine.
Not looking good 
We topped up the oil and waited for the engine to cool down. After a while, Redbeard managed to get the engine starting again but it juddered, smoked, was unable to get the revs up and completely died when shifting into gear. Stuck without roadside assistance on New Years Day, we were calling family back in Brisbane for help. Plan A was formed: We would walk up the road to the conveniently located Bed & Breakfast and ask to wait in the shade there for the few hours it would take for assistance to arrive from the city. The couple running the B+B were absolutely lovely and let us hang around for a while and chatted with us. However, they were heading out before we expected to be on our way so Plan A became Plan A+: wait at the house of a family who are friends of the couple running the B&B for the few hours it would take for assistance to arrive from the city.
Again, the people helping us were absolutely lovely. They even gave us dinner in exchange for our putting in a little bit of work shelling prawns for the meal. At the end of dinner, we discussed our plans again and it was revealed that our lift wasn’t going to be leaving Brisbane until the morning. Plan B was briefly raised (grab the tents out of the car and camp between the road and the cane fields) and shot down. Plan C (call another friend/family member to drive from Brisbane to pick us up but leave the ute to get picked up in the morning) had problems as well. In the end, our hosts for dinner offered to be our hosts for the night, despite already having a house near to full with visiting family, and Plan D was settled.
I cannot praise highly enough the hospitality of the family that took us in for the night. They helped us out in a difficult situation without making a fuss, even though they had a lot of things of their own to deal with. Thanks to the couple at The Cosy Cow and Ian and his family, the breakdown situation was not anywhere near as bad as it could have been. Hopefully they will remember us and enjoy telling the story of the Juggers who visited on New Years Day.
In the morning, with mobile phones recharged, three slightly weary Juggers went back to wait by the car. We had a bit of free time to spar beside the road, on a surface that’s closer to what you might see in the movie than the Jugger fields of the cities. Eventually, help arrived and we loaded the broken down ute onto the trailer Redbeard’s Dad had arranged. The trip back to Brisbane from then on was rather uneventful. We finally arrived home about 24 hours after we had expected to return, happy to have gone camping and met some delightful people but even happier to be home once more.
Roadside Jug