Have you heard of jugger? The sci-fi inspired sport is gaining fans
The Halifax Jugger League has been meeting twice a week for about three years
Players armed with foam weapons face off across a field in north-end Halifax on a cloudless Sunday morning.
On the count of three, the teams charge and players begin striking their opponents as someone dodges to grab a dog skull in the middle of the field.
The skull is fake, but the unusual sport is real. It's called jugger, a combination of rugby, fencing and a little bit of fantasy, and it's gaining popularity not only in Halifax but around the world.
"It's a spectacle," said Gil Richard, organizer of the Halifax Jugger League. "You get to see a group of adults running around fighting each other with fake swords. It's fun to watch and it's even funner to play."
The purpose of the game is to score the dog skull in the other team's end. There are five players on the field at a time: four enforcers that wield home-made weapons and one "quick," who acts like a quarterback and directs the action.
In the background, the steady beat of a drum keeps time so players who've been hit know how long they're out.
Jugger is based on a game played in the 1989 sci-fi movie The Blood of Heroes.
Its origin story goes something like this: live-action role playing groups in Germany and Australia happened upon the movie and decided to bring jugger into the real world. They made gear and developed rules and teams started popping up in Europe, Australia, the U.S. and Canada.
Richard, who started the league about three years ago, found a video of the sport online and was sold from the very first frame.
Now, twice a week 10-15 people meet in Halifax to play. Richard said more are joining every year.
"For 50 bucks you could have a new team. That's one of the nice things about jugger … it's very much DIY," he said.
Robert Brennan and his 12-year-old son Jacob have been coming to practices for about two years.
The game involves a fair bit of sprinting up and down the field, which is a fun way to get exercise, said Brennan.
But father and son say it's also not easy to explain exactly how they spend their Sunday mornings.
"At my class I say jugger and they're all like, 'What's jugger?'" said Jacob. "I try to explain it as simple as possible so they understand, but it's not always simple."
While curious bystanders will often stop and watch, the league has also attracted some unwanted attention. Ming Scott, a student at the University of Kings College, said police were called once because of a complaint about a brawl in the neighbourhood.
The players quickly explained the game, and even invited the officer to join in.
"What I really like about it is that people don't take it too seriously," said Scott. "No one's getting mad if you lose a point … You see a lot more good sports than you do in more mainstream sports."
For now, there's only one team in Halifax. The next closest league is in Toronto.
Richard and teammate Dale Roberts travelled to Dublin, Ireland last year to compete in an international tournament, but they have big plans for back home.
"I'd love to see it grow," said Richard. "My eventual goal is to have enough players, have like a solid player base to have an actual ... local league where we can have bracketed play."
The Halifax Jugger League meets twice a week at Point Pleasant Park on Thursday evenings and at Merv Sullivan Park on Sunday mornings.