IN THE BEGINING - THE MOVIE
"They didn't remember when Juggers first came to play The Game, or how it came to be played with a dog's skull"
'Salute of the Jugger' opening sequence
In 1989, 'The Creator' David Webb Peoples introduced Jugger to the world with his movie entitled 'The Salute of the Jugger ' (alternative title: The Blood of Heroes). Filmed in Australia and starring Rutger Hauer, the movie tells the tale of a blood sport played in a post-apocalyptic future. Wandering teams of Juggers traversed the wastelands to play each other for food and spoils, all the while hoping to become powerful enough to gain the attention of 'The League'. The style of Jugger in the movie is viscerally brutal with steel weapons, make-shift armour and frequent serious injury.
FROM SCREEN TO SPORT
Shortly after the release of the movie (which enjoys a cult following), certain enthusiasts (read: crazy people) sought to adapt the game into a safer, playable format. This happened in several places across the globe but the most notable of these were the American Amtgard Jugging and the German sports Jugger. The sport form grew rapidly in Germany (and by extension, much of continental Europe) since the early 90's to become a recognised sport, with the largest tournament in the world, The Deutsche Meisterscaft (German Masters) attracting around 60 teams each year from countries such as Germany, Spain, France Ireland & Australia.
Jugger had its homecoming thanks to Gavin Ellis, who bought it back to the land where it was first showcased (in the film) after seeing the movie and hearing of the German sport version. Gavin gathered friends together on the Gold Coast to start the first local Jugger games. Over time several teams arose and regular games were held. Gavin's enthusiasm was an encouragement for people to get involved and try the game he was so eager to champion. He was a solid chain player who would sneak out in between hospital appointments to play Jugger. Gavin kept the game going through his own efforts and enthusiasm until the end of 2002, when he was no longer able to keep playing due to complications as a result of Cystic Fibrosis . He passed away in mid 2003, greatly missed by his friends and family. His contribution to the inception and growth of Jugger in Australia is appreciated by all who enjoy the game today and will never be forgotten.
THE RISE OF BRISBANE
Australian Jugger moved from the Gold Coast to Teralba Park in Mitchelton, Brisbane, where a handful of the remaining Gold Coast crew kept the game alive and started to recruit new players. This was the origin of the teams that now play in the Northern Stronghold of Jugger, Brisbane. Before settling into its current location of New Farm Park in January of 2007, Brisbane Jugger alternated between Teralba Park on the north side and Waterford State School on the south side. With the more central location of New Farm Park settled, it was time to take the next step in the development of Jugger. In October 2007 the Brisbane Juggers voted to incorporate as a not-for-profit organisation in Queensland, creating an official organisation to promote and grow the sport in Australia.
MELBOURNE JOINS THE ACTION
June 25th 2006 saw the first game of Jugger in Melbourne. Organised by Tony Karlson, this was the first Jugger group outside of Queensland. An enthusiastic crew slowly grew until, in May 2009, a team from Brisbane travelled to Melbourne to participate in the first interstate Jugger tournament for Australia. After going quiet in Melbourne for some time, Jugger resurfaced quietly in the shy and elusive ‘Swinburne Arm of Jugger’ at Swinburne University, Melbourne. More recently, with an influx of players from Brisbane and Canberra moving to Melbourne in 2015 and joining the existing local group, the renamed Melbourne Jugger has became more much more active in national Jugger community and are once again hosting and attending interstate games.
CANBERRA TAKES UP ARMS
After participating in the original Melbourne tournament and taking delivery of a selection of equipment, Tony Crook returned to Canberra and hatched plans to unleash the sport on the nation's capital. In the depths of the cold Canberra winter of July, 2009, Tony recruited several keen locals to found Jugger Canberra. Jugger in Canberra continued to grow until it had become the most active Jugger group outside of Brisbane. In September 2011 Canberra hosted an interstate tournament, cementing their place as the Southern Stronghold of Jugger. This tradition has continued with Canberra travelling to Brisbane in 2012 for the interstate tournament and again hosting in 2013.
NATIONAL REGISTRATION - THE AUSTRALIAN JUGGER LEAGUE
In August 2014, Jugger in Australia took a huge step forward with the 'Australian Jugger League Inc.' registering as a national body, with the admittance of both the Brisbane and Canberra Leagues under the banner of this entity shortly following. With Newcastle and other fledling clubs expected to join the fold this exciting development bodes well for the growth of Australian Jugger as we seek to obtain further funding and become a recognised amatuer sport.
In 2014, after its introduction to the area by Claire Stasse and Riley Valdyr Burns, the Steel City of Newcastle asked the Juggers of Canberra and Brisbane to introduce them to 'The Way of the One True Dog Skull'. It was decided that the best way to do this was to host the interstate tournament there, a decision quickly seized upon by the locals. Thus it was that Newcastle became the site for the Steel City tourney of 2014, an event eagerly attended by locals and teams from Brisbane and Canberra alike. After the sterling success of the tourney, Jugger continues to grow in Newcastle with their established team, The Blitzkrieg, along with a regular group of roaming Mercs from nearby Maitland. The 2016 Newcastle tourney was eagerly attended by interstate teams and the level of competition seen was astounding - it seems the Steel City has been forged into a stronghold of Jugger!
TAKING ON TOOWOOMBA
Not long after Newcastle joined the fray, a group of enthusiastic people with a mutual interest of martial arts decided that Jugger was a fun and fantastic way to test their skills: thus started Jugger in Toowoomba. This was kickstarted by teams from Brisbane heading out to introduce the new players to the game. Since the inception of Toowoomba Jugger, there have been multiple one-day events between the teams in Brisbane and the self styled 'Highland Dragons'. Not content to just contribute to the promulgation of Jugger as a field sport, the organiser of Toowoomba Jugger, Stuart Shaw, is also developing a Jugger Tabletop Game - featuring real Juggers as playable characters - for release in mid 2016.
THE INTERNATIONAL TOURS
After several years of generous and persistent invitations from German Juggers to come and compete in one of the several tournaments held across the country, the Australian Juggers finally sent a team to Germany. September 2008 saw the first international trip by a team of Australian Juggers to the Deutsche Meisterschaft in Berlin after which the team visited several towns in Germany and the Irish Juggers at home in Dublin. The founding tour also enjoyed hanging around for Oktoberfest, a tradition that each tour tries to incorporate if possible.
2010 saw two Australian Redbacks teams comprised of Juggers from Brisbane and Canberra (with a couple of shanghai’d Germans) head to the Jugger fields of Europe. After a week of acclimatisation and training in Dublin, the teams winged their way to Berlin to take the field at Jahn-Friedrich Sportspark and some great games, most notably those between the Irish team Setanta and the German veterans Rigor Mortis. The tour progressed through Hannover, Hamburg, Homburg, Saarbrücken and Freiburg with a brief stop at Drachenfels Castle and the Nürburgring for a few racing laps.
In 2012 the Canberra and Brisbane contingents joined forces again to send two teams to the Deustche Meisterschaft for what would be the biggest tournament anyone had seen to date, over 60 teams took the field in the old Tempelhof airfield in Berlin over a weekend in September climaxing in an amazing final between the Zonenkinder and Rigor Mortis. A highlight of the 2012 tour was the first ever Australian rules Jugger tournament outside of Australia, held in Homburg in the south of Germany. The Australian rules tournament attracted a lot of attention; the German teams coming to try out their skills with a different style of Jugger and the Australian teams strutting their stuff with the ruleset they knew best.
2014 once again tempted the finest of Canberra and Brisbane (with a token New Zealand player) to represent our corner of the globe at the 17th Deutsche Meisterschaft/1st World Masters in Villingen, Germany. With a one week stopover in Spain to get some training in Valencia and Madrid (with tecniques polished by a secret agent German), 1.5 teams went to battle on the Jugger pitch. Redbacks I went through to score the highest (relative) placement that we have so far accomplished (25th/65). Redbacks II, being slightly understaffed, joined forces with Setanta II to form the Setbacks, who performed beautifully on the weekend considering half of the team had never met the other half before. After the tournament it was time to soak our brutally punished muscles in the famous mineral baths of Baden-Baden. Once nice and relaxed we responded to an invite to spend time with the infamous Pink Pain in Darmstadt. Redbacks then proceeded to scatter across Europe or back to Australia to soak in some culture/imbibe cultured products.
2015 saw a new International team, The Dropbears, head to the Sweden for a Metalfest Jugger event and then on to the USA for the innaugural Mile High Tournament in Colorado. The team did exceptionally well, putting on a good show and placing 4th (despite all the mud) in Sweden and then coming 2nd to the Irish in Colorado after reaching the finals undefeated. A number of Aussies also made the finals (and more than one category was won by an Aussie) for the 1v1 competitions.
LOOKING TO THE FUTURE
So what's next? 2016 looks to be busy, with the biennial Redbacks invasion of Europe for the Deutsche Meisterschaft being planned and a possible visit by either the Redbacks or Dropbears to an Irish tournament (to celebrate 10 years of Jugger in the Emerald Isle) in August as well.
Meanwhile, the first International tournament to be held on Australian soil is planned for October 2017. An east coast tour from Brisbane to Canberra, with a stop-over in Newcastle for training and a dip at Nobby's Beach, is expected to draw a host of international teams to our fair nation.